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Birmingham City Council boss demands ‘informed debate’ on town hall chiefs’ pay, and asks for a wage rise

Birmingham City Council boss demands ‘informed debate’ on town hall chiefs’ pay, and asks for a wage rise

🕔12.Jun 2014

Britain’s town hall bosses are the latest profession to demand a pay rise from their employer, although they admit that an “uninformed” public debate about fat-cat town hall chiefs may harm their chances of getting an increase.

Local authority chief executives want a one per cent rise to reflect cost of living increases.

The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE), led by Birmingham City Council chief Mark Rogers, has put in its first official pay claim for seven years.

Mr Rogers, whose basic salary is £180,000, told MPs on the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee that the public should only be concerned about highly-paid council officials if wage levels were judged to be “improper”.

He suggested claims of town hall bosses pocketing huge rises were something of a myth.

Mr Rogers said: “I am not entirely convinced that senior executive salaries are actually rising from the evidence I have seen. Some of the most recent information, which goes back to 2011, suggests there was a very modest rise of less than one per cent in senior salaries.”

Mr Rogers called for “an informed debate” on the issue and said the public and press often did not understand that wages for chief officers were determined locally by councillors and not centrally by the Government. The way in which pay at the top of local government is determined is often “misunderstood and misrepresented”, Mr Rogers told the committee.

He added: “I work for local democratically elected representatives and it’s their decision, no one else’s. I do not work for the Department for Communities and Local Government.”

He claimed it was difficult to compare council chief executives pay against any other profession. “There is only one local government public sector in England. You don’t have similar sectors against which to benchmark.”

Pay for senior council staff has been largely frozen since 2009 when the credit crunch began to bite.

If the request is approved, Mr Rogers’ £180,000 a year salary will rise by £35 a week to £181,800.

He took up his post in Birmingham in March this year on a substantially lower wage than his predecessor Stephen Hughes who received a basic salary of £205,000.

Although Birmingham is easily the largest local authority in the country, Mr Rogers is far from one of the highest paid chief executives. In 2011-12, the joint chief executive of Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea council was paid £267,000, while chief executives in many of the larger shire counties were routinely paid in excess of £210,000.

The Office for National Statistics reported that employment in Britain surged by 345,000 in the first quarter of the year, the largest jump since records began. However, pay fell sharply below inflation with average annual wage rises at 0.7 per cent. Prices are rising by 1.8 per cent.

SOLACE secretary Mary Pett told the committee that council chief executives were increasingly concerned about being the target of unwarranted personal attacks on social media. People thought it was “perfectly acceptable to make derogatory comments” about someone they did not know because they happened to be in the public domain.

Chief executives should be measured against performance objectives, not the type of car they drive, Ms Pett added.

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