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End to payoffs for local government chief executives – Pickles

Plans to save money by enabling easier and less expensive dismissals of highly paid but incompetent local government chief executives are due to be implemented by the communities secretary Eric Pickles.

The dismissal of a council chief executive often involves lengthy and costly legal investigations which result in generous payoffs given to chief executives to avoid these legal proceedings.

Pickles called for councils to appoint an independent reviewer such as a QC to examine dismissal and disciplinary cases. The reforms would be a reversal of the rules introduced by the Conservative government at the end of the 1980s to avoid politically motivated dismissals.

The recent suspension of a chief executive for the Isles of Scilly council illustrates that these enquiries can cost between £100,000 and £250,000, and one particular case cost £420,000 over a total investigation period of 16 months.

Resulting payoffs to avoid such inefficient procedures have prompted many complaints, as they are viewed as excessive.

Pickles argued: “A town hall chief executive costs a lot of money, but if they are simply not up to the job, councillors must be able to get rid of them quick-smart without having to throw away thousands in parachute payoffs.

“It is ridiculous that councils feel forced to give bumper payoffs to dismiss inadequate chief executives simply to avoid these unnecessary golden goodbye reviews from expensive lawyers.

“Scrapping this bizarre bureaucratic ritual will save taxpayers money and put the decision firmly back in democratically elected hands.”

He is supported by chief executive of the Tax Payers’ Alliance Matthew Sinclair, who commented: “Chief executives at successful councils have nothing to fear from this change but it will stop any complacency among those who aren't doing what they can to deliver value for money. Elected councillors need to be able to change a chief executive without paying a reward for failure at the expense of local residents.”

Councils are currently required to publicly publish their pay policies by the Localism Act. Research has recently showed that salaries for new chief executives have decreased by 11% on average between January and June 2012.

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