Unless a post carries a salary remotely commensurate with the world of commerce, so the thinking goes, they have little chance of recruiting the high-fliers they want.
The Senior Salaries Review Body admitted as much in its report yesterday when, in relation to civil servants, it said: "We were keen to facilitate the payment of external recruits to senior civil service positions within the pay range for the grade."
That wish, say Whitehall insiders, has driven the latest increases, to: £90,000 - £150,000 from £87,435 - £118,179 for permanent secretaries (only Sir Robin Butler, Cabinet Secretary and head of the Home Civil Service receives the present maximum); £67,500 - £98,000 from £65,990 - £88,000 for grade twos; £55,000 - £82,500 from £52,704 - £80,000 for grade threes.
Where a permanent secretary comes within the range pay will be established by a remuneration committee, comprising three members of the Review Body, the Head of the Home Civil Service and the Head of the Treasury.
But these ranges only apply to permanent secretaries, and future recruits or promotions to grades two and three. Present grade twos and threes qualify for performance pay. Their performance pay budget has been increased by 2.5 per cent of their total paybill.
Last year, most grade twos and threes who performed well received bonuses of between 3 and 4 per cent. That is likely to apply again this year.
Other factors are behind the rise in ranges for permanent secretaries and for future grade two and three recruits and promotions. Many grade two and grade three posts have still to catch up to the minimum ranges recommended by the review body in 1992. Good performers also need rewarding so the new ranges have been designed to ensure a greater degree of overlap.
But the main reason is the drive to attract new experienced, blood into the service. The Government is also keen to keep good people, to stop them being poached by business. While, it is true, no permanent secretaries have jumped ship for industry for the pay ministers are anxious to ensure any temptation is reduced in future.
Unless the pay is realistic, argue ministers, there is no point in going down that route at all.The much-troubled Derek Lewis, head of the Prison Service, is paid £125,000 for a post that previously was a grade two, in which case he would be receiving somewhere between £65,000 and £79,000, rising to a maximum of £88,000 on 1 April and the implementation of last year's Review Body award.