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Political blog, April 6: The Town Hall "rich list"

THERE’S been a fair bit of antipathy between the Taxpayers’ Alliance and Kent County Council in recent years over the issue of how much is paid to the authority’s chief executive and other senior officers.

I imagine those relations won’t have been improved by the publication today of the latest survey by the lobby group, in which KCC chief executive Peter Gilroy emerges again as being one of the highest paid in the country at £255,000 and the number of senior staff earning more than £100,000 has virtually doubled to 30. See our story here

I’ve been slightly confused by KCC’s description of the remuneration package for the chief executive as “clean pay” on the grounds that Mr Gilroy receives no bonuses or additional allowances.

That would seem to conflict with the response KCC made when dealing with our Freedom of Information request about the amount of money paid to senior officers by way of bonuses. (We reported last month how £102,000 had been paid to those belonging to the chief officers’ group. You can read the story on chief officers bonuses here

In its reply then, KCC said that so far as the chief executive was concerned, “the leader of the council decides if the chief executive should receive a bonus…in consultation with members”

No doubt someone will be able to answer this.

Meantime, KCC has argued it has to pay the going rate in the market - although I doubt that will engender much sympathy with the 1,500 employees at County Hall who earn less than £14,000 a year.

County Hall has also stuck by its determination not to identify any of those senior officers earning above £100,000, despite a series of rulings from the Information Commissioner, the Freedom of Information watchdog, that the most senior employees in the public sector should be identified and a more recent pronouncement from the Government that there will be legislation to compel councils to publish such details.

There is now a political consensus that the public has a right to know about such details but it is one KCC, to date, has not fully signed up to.

The facts are that the salaries of those in the public sector are paid from the public purse. That means your taxes pay their salaries. Why shouldn’t council taxpayers be entitled to know how much of their money is going towards paying the local council’s most senior staff?

The resistance among some councils towards what would be a relatively small step towards greater transparency is wholly misplaced; not only that, but it is a missed opportunity.

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