High-salary council chiefs face sack, say the Tories

Council chiefs paid as much as £240,000 a year face the axe under a Conservative government, after a senior Tory said the position of council chief executive should be abolished.

The party chairman, Eric Pickles, said recent changes to the structure of local government meant many chief executives were no longer needed. Since 2000, many councils have switched to having a leader and elected cabinet members handling specific portfolios.

"I'm not entirely sure that paying a quarter of a million pounds for a chief executive of a large local authority is justified," he said. "To a degree, they are being paid like football managers. In a time when members have executive responsibilities, I'm not entirely sure that can be justified."

At least 16 local government officials earn more than the Prime Minister, and almost 200 earn more than cabinet ministers. The highest-paid council chief is thought to be Joe Duckworth, head of the London borough of Newham. The Taxpayer's Alliance claims that Mr Duckworth earns a basic £240,000. Stoke-on-Trent city council has said it was to pay its new chief executive £195,000, £50,000 more than it paid its previous chief executive.

Tory insiders believe contractual agreements may make it impossible to remove incumbent chief executives but they are considering merging the roles of council head and chief executive. "I'm not one of these people who gets excited about high salaries but it should be in proportion to their responsibilities," Mr Pickles said. "A lot of council chief executives do not have that level of responsibility."

A spokesman for the council chief executives group, Solace, said: "The most successful councils are the ones where politicians elected to take the decisions work closely with excellent strategic managers trained to run large, complex organisations."

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