Wales politics

Welsh council chief pay out of control - Plaid Cymru AM

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Media captionCouncils are in a competitive market for high-flying officials

The Welsh government has been accused of not doing enough to rein in the big salaries of council chief executives.

Ministers resisted calls from opposition AMs to put an independent panel in charge of senior officers' pay.

One Plaid Cymru AM, Rhodri Glyn Thomas, said the wages of council chiefs were now "totally out of control".

But the Welsh government said salaries were a local matter and it would be wrong for ministers to intervene.

It rejected opposition attempts to amend a bill which would have put chief executives' pay packets in the hands of an independent panel.

A similar system already exists for councillors' allowances, which are set nationally.

Mr Thomas, who tabled the amendment to the Local Democracy Bill, told BBC Wales' Sunday Politics: "It's out of control totally.

"As we've seen recently in the press coverage, there are numerous chief executives, senior management, earning far more than the first minister here, far more than the prime minister in the UK."

He said offering "exorbitant wages" was a "lazy way of employing people," instead of developing their own managers through the ranks.

In March, Caerphilly council suspended its chief executive when an investigation was launched into the way he was awarded a controversial pay rise of £25,400.

'Highest calibre'

The chief executive of Wales's biggest local authority, Cardiff council's Jon House, currently earns almost £184,000 - £50,000 more than First Minister Carwyn Jones.

A Welsh government spokeswoman said: "Local authority pay is a matter for each authority and its members are accountable to their local electorates for the decisions they take.

"We recognise local authorities need to balance the need to find the right person with value for money for the tax payer, which will differ from area to area depending on local factors.

"We are also aware the recruitment of senior staff is a competitive market.

"For these reasons, we feel that it would not be appropriate for the pay of senior staff within authorities to be set at a national level."

She said decisions at county halls should be "open and transparent" and that councils were obliged to publish annual pay policies for all employees.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association said: "Senior officers in local government receive appropriate remuneration which reflects the highly demanding and challenging roles they undertake in large multimillion-pound businesses.

"However, in comparison with other parts of the Welsh public sector local government salary packages are at the lower end of the executive pay league, considering the complex responsibilities that chief officers are expected to deliver upon.

"A competitive salary is vital if we are to encourage the highest calibre of candidates to deliver these demanding and vitally important public roles."

He said senior officers were now picking up "huge extra responsibilities as a result of this significant downsizing of management roles, and this trend will accelerate as more cuts hit services".

Most senior officers were also now in the fifth year of a pay freeze, he added.

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