Councils To Reveal Salaries of Senior Officials

H&F wanted some details kept under wraps

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The Council's annual accounts for 2010 will offer readers something new: for the first time ever, they will include the salary details of senior officials.

The Local Government Accounts and Audit Regulations 2009 require all public bodies to state who their most senior staff are, their final remuneration (in a band of £5,000) and how that final sum breaks down (salary, bonus, termination payments etc.).

However, the Government consultation on the new regulations showed “continued resistance from some councils, police authorities and associated groups”, against disclosure, according to the Taxpayers' Alliance. Some respondents claimed that providing specific details of remuneration would endanger the physical or mental well-being of their staff – claims that were dismissed by the Department of Communities and Local Government which carried out the consultation.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council were generally in favour of transparency, but appeared to want to keep some details under wraps, according to information gathered by the Taxpayers' Alliance. Responding to the consultation in July 2009, H&F wrote: "We support the proposal to publish the names, salaries, taxable allowances and benefits in kind of individuals. We do not believe that details of individual bonuses awarded should be published, as this would reveal (or purport to) confidential performance issues. The award of a low bonus in a given year could lead to media speculation about the performance of the individual, with impacts on public and staff confidence.

"We do not believe that it is useful to directly compare standard remuneration....with compensation for termination of employment. We believe this information would best be presented in a separate table," the Council continued.

And in what appears to be an attempt to limit the number of staff whose pay should be revealed, H&F wrote: “We believe that the definition of "senior" members of staff should capture the Chief Executive and his or her direct reports.” The final version of the regulations states that only officials or officers who earn over £150,000 must be named, although the draft version had had a wider remit.

A Hammersmith and Fulham Council spokesman said: "The Council has always been open to revealing the salaries of senior staff."

During the consultation, the Audit Commission and the Information Commissioner both said they foresaw no problems with full disclosure: “We feel it is particularly important that pension arrangements, compensation for loss of office and any other payments received are transparently disclosed......We cannot see any barriers or significant costs to collecting and reporting the proposed remuneration information,” wrote the Audit Commission in June 2009.

While the Taxpayers' Alliance say the new rules are a step in the right direction, they say they would have liked them to have gone further: "It seems that some council officers don't feel confident that taxpayers will approve of their pay and perks, and so they mounted a desperate attempt to keep them secret. In reality, proper transparency will improve the relationship between taxpayers and the public sector by eliminating the widespread feeling that we are being kept in the dark about how our money is spent. It is ironic that these officers who are demanding privacy for themselves work for the very councils which spy on the public with huge numbers of CCTV cameras," said the TPA's Campaign Director, Mark Wallace.

February 25, 2010