Council chiefs in England and Wales have refused to disclose the salaries of thousands of senior staff, claiming it would lead to a public outcry.
The Government had ordered local authorities to disclose the earnings of all executives after concerns were raised about the size of pay increases granted to council officers.
But local authorities claimed that the pay disclosures would leave their staff vulnerable to reprisals from taxpayers. They argued that officers would be subjected to “personalised attacks and mischief making”.
They said family members might be threatened and officials’ children bullied at school. One local authority even said the proposals represented “a gross invasion of privacy”.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance, which uncovered the exchange after a Freedom of Information request, accused council chiefs of resorting to “emotional blackmail” and “scare-mongering”.
Council bosses were expected to list the names and salaries, as well as pensions, perks and pay-offs, of everyone paid more than £50,000 a year. They have since persuaded ministers that they should only have to disclose the full details of staff earning in excess of £150,000 a year. They will list the number of staff and the job titles of those employees earning more than £50,000, but no further details.
I see. Well, no, actually, I don’t.
The first thing I want to ask is: why is any council employee anywhere earning £150,000? What happened to the idea of public service? Has every part of the political system become populated with people are there only for what they can get out of it? They already have incredible job security compared to the private sector, which has been haemorrhaging people for months, while the public sector has been joyfully increasing its count of diversity co-ordinators and equality evaluators and inclusion outreach officers, all on pretty comfortable pay grades. Indeed, we need look no further than the recently announced Troughing Inspection Team for an exemplar of this kind of thing. That hoary old chestnut about having to “compete with the private sector for the best people” is patently a load of old cobblers: I certainly haven’t seen any evidence of this, either in the form of businesses struggling to attract good people or councils and government delivering anything like a better service!
But it’s quite clear to me what’s going on here: the people above £150,000 have all got their kids in a private school and live in a nice secure home in a nice village far away from those oiky proles. Name and shame? Don’t be silly, dear boy. We’ll have a good laugh about it at the next dinner party! Those above £50,000 on the other hand, may not quite be able to get the children out of harm’s way and they probably live among those oiky proles. Oiky proles who will have lost their jobs or will know people who have lost their jobs and will be wondering just how it’s possible that their taxes are keeping their council-employee friends’ mortgages paid when they can’t afford to pay their own. They may well look at their Tesco Value shopping bags in their own recycling bin and the Waitrose bags in their neighbour’s.
And they may get very, very angry indeed.
Just to make things even worse, there are 646 MPs. There are something like 10,000 councillors. And those won’t be the only candidates for earnings above £50,000. As an example, it took me 30 seconds to find a council job for £100,000 – a school headteacher. So, there are going to be thousands of people, all comfortably ensconced in the top 1% of earners in this country … on your “dime”!
But then you have to consider one more issue: if these people are worth the money, if they’re delivering the service levels that justify the money, then no reasonable person will begrudge you that money. It’s only if these people are being egregiously overpaid that they would have any cause to worry. So I say to local and central government employees: open your books! Show us who is highly paid! The quality of your services should mean that there would be no qualms about how much these people are paid.
IF YOU’VE NOTHING TO HIDE, YOU’VE NOTHING TO FEAR