Friday, 27 August 2010

Victory for common sense (and me) as Cornwall Council reviews top salaries

Local journalists have been extensively briefed over the last couple of days that the salaries of the top earners at County Hall are to be reviewed as part of the emergency budget process. That's good news and a success for the campaign that has been run by local papers and myself over the last months.

The review is also said to include consideration of ending the vast payoffs to senior officers. Although the fact that the amounts of these now need to be made public is entirely coincidental.

Cornwall Council has one of the top 30 earning officers in the country. I don't begrudge individuals seeking to earn as much as their talents allow, but I think that the salary levels at County Hall were set wrongly when the new authority was established. In those cases where the responsibilities are the same as in the old set up, there is no justification for a rise. And where responsibilities have increased, the additional pay should be modest.

As for payoffs, it is still a mystery as to why a director who left of his own accord should have been given a payoff of almost £80,000 of taxpayer's money. A confidentiality agreement prevents questions being asked, but the last word on this subject from the Council Leader was that he felt that it was good value for money in this case. Now it appears that officers departing in the future cannot expect to receive the same value for money treatment.

A few months ago, I put the question to the Council about cutting the salaries of the top officers. A similar question was raised by a member of the public. Both got a short and sweet response to the effect that the Council had no inclination to reconsider top salaries.

Now that stance has been abandoned and local Tory MPs have been heaping praise on the Leader for his brave decision. It is certainly to be welcomed, but it's a pity that Mr Eustice and Ms Newton weren't a bit quicker off the mark.

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