Plans to cap senior pay in councils will drive away talent and undermine local accountability, a local authority chief has said.
The comments from Mary Orton, honorary secretary of the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives, followed the announcement of Conservative plans to limit top executives’ pay to 20 times that of their lowest paid employee.
Orton, chief executive of Waverley Council, a district authority in Surrey, said this would make little difference in local government, saying she earned just over seven times the wage of her lowest paid employee.
The pay gap is wider in unitary and county councils, with a minimum of about £12,000 and some chief executives earning upwards of £200,000, but this reflects at most an equivalent gap to the limit called for by David Cameron in an article for The Guardian today.
But with Labour planning to require all public sector wage packets of over £150,000 to be approved by the Treasury, Orton said that central government should not be interfering in council pay settlements as this undermined local democratic accountability.
She said: “We would be against anything that smacked of central government taking these decisions away from local councils. Local government has long maintained its right to make its own decisions.”
She added: “Most people understand the principle that you get what you pay for. If you put an artificial limit on the pay for a job what will happen is that fewer people with the right skills will be interested in doing it.”
Alluding to the need for councils and other public bodies to make significant efficiency savings, she added: “You run the risk of running the best people out of the public sector at a time when you need them the most, and the amount you save is minuscule.”