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Councils forced to reveal salaries of top executives

Councils in England will be forced to disclose the pay and perks of their chief executives under new measures designed to crack down on town hall "fat cats", it was announced today.

Local government minister John Healey wants to change disclosure rules requiring councils to set out the full details for around 2,500 top posts.

The changes would force councils to reveal the salaries, bonuses, pensions and redundancy pay-offs of their highest earners in their annual reports. Extras such as private cars, chauffeurs and accommodation would be made public as well.

The measure would highlight some of the huge pay-offs and perks awarded to council bosses during the economic crisis and Mr Healey hopes it will put a brake on "spiralling" pay packets.

He said top salaries had been rising faster than the rest of local government and accused some councils of "swapping managers like premiership football clubs".

Last month it emerged that around 20 council chiefs earn more than the Prime Minister.

According to the TaxPayers' Alliance, the heads of Newham and Wandsworth council in London are paid more than £240,000 a year, compared to Prime Minister Gordon Brown's salary of £194,250.

Figures from the Audit Commission showed the salaries of council chiefs increased by more than a third in the past four years.

Mr Healey announced a consultation on the plan to amend the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2003.

He said: "It's right that councils decide the wages for their staff, but the public pays and they have the right to see the full picture of top pay and perks.

"Councils are big organisations with a tough job - they need the best people in charge. But we've recently seen top salaries rising far faster than the rest of local government with some councils swapping managers like premiership football clubs. This salary spiral has to stop.

"The level of public disclosure for councils is much lower than we now rightly require from the civil service and ministers. I want it brought up to a better standard.

"That is why I am proposing full disclosure in new regulations that will mean authorities must publish in their annual reports what their top earners get in pay, pensions, redundancy payoffs, bonuses and other special allowances.

"In today's tough economic climate councils must think harder about senior salaries and this will put a brake on spiralling pay packets and perks."

Sir Steve Bullock, chair of Local Government Employers said: "In these tough economic times it is only right that everyone gets to see how much is paid to the people who help deliver their local services.

"This microscope must also turn on all those who work in senior jobs in the rest of the public sector, quangos and central government.

"Councils need talented people in top management positions but they have to balance this with the need, in a tight financial situation, for all salaries to be demonstrably reasonable.