Wales politics

Opposition threat to block legislation over council chiefs' pay

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Media captionThe minority Labour government could be defeated in the Senedd unless it reaches agreement with its opponents

Opposition parties are threatening to block Welsh assembly legislation unless ministers accept rules to restrain council chief executives' salaries.

The Welsh government has already rejected calls for an independent panel to control the pay of top officials.

The minority Labour government could be defeated in the Senedd unless it reaches agreement with its opponents.

The Welsh government said it was considering how to decide pay levels in an "open and transparent way".

The dispute follows increasing concern over the high salaries awarded to senior council staff at a time when local authorities are facing deep cuts in their funding.

In Caerphilly, the way the council's chief executive was given a pay rise was declared unlawful by a spending watchdog in March.

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

The opposition tried to amend a bill going through the assembly which would have meant that senior officers' pay is set nationally, instead of being decided by each council.

A similar system already exists for local councillors' allowances.

The idea was rejected by ministers and failed to get approval from a committee of AMs in May.

However, Plaid Cymru AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas has re-tabled the amendment with the support of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The Local Democracy Bill, which is designed to make councils more efficient, goes before the Senedd chamber for final approval on 18 June.

Spokespeople for all three opposition parties confirmed to BBC Wales that their AMs will vote against the entire bill unless Local Government Minister Lesley Griffiths gives way on the pay issue.

As it has only half the seats in the chamber, Labour needs the support of its opponents to get legislation passed.

'Highly demanding'

Mr Thomas said councillors' allowances were set nationally, "so there's an anomaly in the context of officials who can apparently discuss their salaries unilaterally with the authority".

He said he hoped the government had "learned the lessons" of a row over council tax benefit which resulted in AMs being be recalled to Cardiff Bay at Christmas.

"If they had discussed [that issue] with us at that time the government would not have got itself into the situation of recalling the assembly back," he said.

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has argued senior officers in local authorities receive "appropriate remuneration" reflecting the "highly demanding and challenging roles" they perform in "large multi-million pound businesses".

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "The Welsh government recognises that the pay of local authority chief executives is an issue which needs to be determined in an open and transparent way and there need to be effective mechanisms in place to ensure this happens.

"Listening to concerns over this matter, we are currently considering options for this at Stage three of the Local Government Democracy (Wales) Bill."

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