Eric Pickles has come up with another great wheeze - subjecting the pay deals of all local government employeess who get over £100,000 a year to a vote of all councillors.
Unlike the LGA, I'm all for it.
I think most councillors accept that we need to pay quite a lot to get people of top quality to run council services. But that does not mean that we need to pay over the odds. I'm certain that, if implemented nationwide, we could still get top notch people with the right experience to do a first rate job.
When Cornwall Council became a unitary authority, the old County Council and six districts merged into one. We went from around 33 top officers to just six. That move alone saved millions of pounds of taxpayers' money.
But what happened next was that all six got whacking pay rises compared with the previous holders of the jobs. In some cases, it was quite right that there should be some increase on the previous rate due to the increase workload and responsibilities. In the case of the Chief Exec, for example, the post was no longer simply responsible for county council services but for a much bigger organisation dealing with parking, leisure, housing and all the other old district functions.
But was the scale of the pay rise justified? The former Chief Exec of the County Council was on about £150,000. Yet the new Chief Exec earns £200,000 (it should be noted that he has taken a voluntary 5% pay cut but is still entitled to claim the full whack if he wants). Was this huge rise justified or should a balance (perhaps at £175,000) have been struck?
And what about those jobs which had little changed? The former director of adult care was responsible for adult social services across Cornwall. The new director of adult care has virtually the same role. Yet there was a massive pay hike with the formation of the new authority.
It may well be that in some areas where there is a shortage of candidates, the council will want to offer a higher than normal pay package to secure the best rather than take second rate.
But the norm should be packages a step below the current levels and I think that having a more open process - including the approval by full council of the pay level - is a step in the right direction. This will become particularly necessary in years to come when the next tier of officers (heads of service) start to edge up to, and above, the £100k mark.
I acknowledge, of course, that four of the six directors in Cornwall Council were appointed by the Implementation Executive which was largely run by Lib Dems. I think they got it wrong.
None of the foregoing should be seen as a comment on the qualities of the individual postholders here in Cornwall. Each is perfectly entitled to seek the maximum return for their undoubted skills. It is the system that needs changing, not the current office holders.