Spreading the vote

PUBLISHED: 13:31 05 April 2007 | UPDATED: 15:03 12 May 2010

ONE question raised at the recent Royston annual town meeting concerned the pay for local authority chief executives. To be more precise, the salary received by the chief executives of North Herts District Council and Herts County Council. For the record,

ONE question raised at the recent Royston annual town meeting concerned the pay for local authority chief executives.

To be more precise, the salary received by the chief executives of North Herts District Council and Herts County Council.

For the record, John Campbell, chief executive of the district council, receives about £98,000-a-year and Caroline Tapster, the county council's chief executive, about £188,500-a-year.

She is number nine on the local authority rich list who receive more each year than the Prime Minister.

And on that rich list, beyond her is the outgoing chief executive of Cambridgeshire County Council, Ian Stewart, who is said to earn £199,999-a-year.

The highest-paid local authority chief executive in the country is Peter Gilroy, the man who runs Kent County Council and earns £229,999-a-year.

We shouldn't be surprised by such earnings.

After all, running a local authority - especially a body such as a county council - is compared with being chief executive of a multi-million pound business.

Come to think of it, that is exactly what a county council is. In its case, however, much of the expenses comes from the public purse.

And that, really, was the crux of the question being raised last week.

Why should we pay so much for people in such positions when they should be dedicated to public service? The reason is that we need the services each local authority provides, and it in turn, needs the proper management to deliver those services.

But when those services begin to fail and stop serving the public, then the massive salaries of those supposed to be in charge have to be questioned.

We are in a way shareholders, or as we are told so often these days, stakeholders, of Local Authority Ltd.

It's a daunting task to run an organisation such as a local authority. And the buck should stop at the chief executive.

We have the opportunity through the ballot box to change elected members, but not the chief executive.

Perhaps we should all have more say in such an appointment, and to those public positions which do affect us.

It works in the United States, although I would not advocate elections from the top down to dog-catcher.

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