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Council pay-offs should be more transparent – Pickles

New transparency rules have been published for councils paying senior staff large salaries, local government secretary Eric Pickles has announced.

Severance pay-offs will have to be democratically approved by full council votes, and changes to the dismissal and disciplinary proceedings will be introduced. Councils will no longer be required to appoint an independent investigator to review misconduct by senior officers before they can be dismissed.

The changes will mean councils can decide the best disciplinary process to deliver value for money, Pickles said.

He added: “For too long, local government has made severance pay arrangements away from the eyes of those who get left with the bill: the taxpayer.

“Town hall chief executives are well paid so if they are not up to the job councils need to part ways with them fairly. Quietly agreeing to thousands in under-the-counter parachute pay-offs for departing bureaucrats is not the way to achieve this.

“Councils have a responsibility to the public and transparency is at the heart of that. By shining a light on excessive public pay and introducing new democratic checks and balances to senior salaries we are helping councils improve accountability in local government.”

Cllr Sir Steve Bullock, chairman of the LGA's Workforce Board, said: “Local government already has a high level of democratic oversight and accountability for decisions on senior pay and severance packages. 

“In local government we have embraced transparency to a degree not matched in other parts of the public sector. Councils already publish details of all posts paying more than £58,200 per year. Overall we are seeing a downward trend in senior pay as councillors tighten spending, with a reduction in the number of middle and senior managers providing a 12.5% cut in overall management costs between 2011 and 2012.

“Councils have to operate within the laws and guidance set out by central government. Previous termination proceedings reflect that and the need for the process to be legally robust, fair to both sides and flexible enough to meet the demands of specific circumstances.

“Councils are the most democratically accountable part of the public sector and they are very much alive to these issues. The LGA's national pay policy guide already covers most of the points raised in this guidance. It is important that all parts of the public sector adopt a similarly rigorous approach.”

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