Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Local Government Pay

This is another of those instances when one finds it difficult to understand what the source of the current crisis actually is. It's almost as obscure as the Crimean War having started as a dispute over the guardianship of the Holy Places.
Some local authorities pay their CEO's mega-wedges. They presumably do so because there is a competitive market in local authority CEO services. I may be being particularly stubborn here, but in terms of labour mobility and fluidity, there seems to be more of a competitive market in local authority CEO services than in many other public offices, such as the Prime Ministership, or the Director-Generalship of the BBC. Accordingly, if the market in local authority CEO services is working correctly, it would seem to make perfect sense for some of them to paid more than the Prime Minister, if only because that's the perfect barometer of that market's efficiency.
If there is a market for a particular type of service, one which actively indicates the scarcity of top quality labour by the payment of large salaries, it's difficult to understand why a government apparently keen on markets should be interfering with it. The only reason one can think of is that it's the type of market our current government doesn't like, one that advertises its jobs in 'The Guardian' rather than 'The Times' or 'The Daily Telegraph'. The question of whether either of those two latter publications would spurn the de facto subsidy provided by local authority job advertisements if they were ever to be offered them must, of course, remain moot. Having once worked, very briefly, on the outermost fringes of the extremely zany industry known as newspaper advertising, it really wouldn't surprise me if they grabbed the money with both hands.
Or else our government just hates the idea of any power at all being held at the local level, and wants everything to be run centrally instead, a not unreasonable conjecture given the extreme centralising tendencies exhibited by every British government since 1979.
When confronted with the jowls of Eric Pickles wobbling magnificently in the breeze as he slashes and burns his way through perceived 'waste' like a parish council crank, it is difficult not to recall the immortal words of John Kenneth Galbraith from 'The Affluent Society', already quoted here, and about to be quoted again, on the subject of right-wing infantilism concerning the provision of public services -
"At best public services are a necessary evil; at worst they are a malign tendency against which an alert community must exercise eternal vigilance. Even when they serve the most important ends, such services are sterile...Such attitudes lead to some interesting contradictions. Cars have an importance greater than the roads on which they are driven. We welcome expansion of telephone services as improving the general well-being but accept curtailment of postal services as signifying necessary economy. We set great store by the increase in private wealth but regret the added outlay for the police force by which it is protected. Vacuum cleaners to ensure clean houses are praiseworthy and essential in our standard of living. Street cleaners to ensure clean streets are an unfortunate expense. Partly as a result, our houses are generally clean and our streets generally filthy".
But Eric Pickles knows better than JKG on this one, even down to the basics of the laws of supply and demand. The Liberal Democrats might contain more than their fair share of nutters, but at least they possess the lunatics' candour regarding their desire that you should recycle/eat less meat/hate yourself more. Other than brute ideology as stale as last week's morning rolls, the Tories have no excuse.

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Blogger Richard T said...

In Scotland to a large extent, local government Chief Executive pay is 'negotiated' according to the size of the authority and this seems an adequate model to follow. It's interesting that here, at least, top public sector pay when determined by central government and covering such work as Health Boards and Quangos is substantially higher than equivalent posts in local authorities and I assume that by and large the same applies in England. On that basis, presumably Eric Pickles, as a practicising humbug, is attacking a soft target while neglecting pay and rewards in the midden of the government. This is perhaps not surprising when Mr Pickles's enthusiasm for claiming expenses is recalled.

19 February, 2011 10:43  
Blogger Martin said...

Good point, Richard.

19 February, 2011 13:40  

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