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Who will pick a mayoral pay fight with Pickles?

Who will pick a mayoral pay fight with Pickles?

🕔27.Jun 2011

The Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan had some fun yesterday pointing out that Tory councils appear to be as guilty as Labour-run authorities in paying more to chief executives than communities secretary Eric Pickles would like. The story’s here.

All knockabout stuff, and while there was fundamentally little new in the report, it did contain one fact that got me thinking about the financial dimension of the mayoral debate here in Birmingham and the other ‘referendum’ cities.

Gilligan says:

The best paid man in local government is Peter Hendy, head of Boris Johnson’s Transport for London, on around £450,000 a year.

Ah, yes, Boris. Mr Hendy may have taken a small pay cut recently, but during the worst public spending crisis in post-war history, the Tory Mayor of London is spending £50 million of taxpayers’ money on building a novelty cable-car ride across the Thames. It is a project born largely of a gag: in Boris’s speeches, he gets a laugh by calling it a tribute to Vince Cable. Now the joke is on us. (full story here)

Let’s leave to one side the advisability or otherwise of Boris’s ‘cable-car ride’, and concentrate on the issue of remuneration for the people Birmingham’s future mayor will gather around him or herself.

If the mayor follows-through on Mike Whitby’s ‘global city local heart’ mantra, will that mean scouring the globe for the very best transport commissioner, head of regeneration and housing chief – and paying the market rate? After all, they won’t be restricted to fishing in the rather limited pool of Birmingham councillors.

The local and national press no doubt will delight in scrutinising the pay of every one of the new mayoral team who receives anything like the salary of, say, the prime minister, and it will be a bold mayor indeed who argues that to get the best, you pay the best.

Like it or not, this is an issue, and we await with interest to see how the emerging candidates tackle it.

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