Tories to disclose top civil servants' pay

The salaries of Britain’s top civil servants will be published under Tory moves to open up Whitehall’s inner workings to the public.

Details of staff numbers and job descriptions for all government departments will also be placed online, alongside information about every item of spending of more than £25,000.

Francis Maude, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: “We want to unleash an army of armchair auditors to crawl over the government’s accounts.”

He led a succession of shadow ministers setting out plans at the Conservative conference to “fix our broken politics” by reforming Whitehall and local authorities.

Mr Maude argued that forcing greater openness and accountability into the culture of central government would result in better value for taxpayers’ money.

The Tories would disclose the pay packages of everyone on grade seven and above of the civil service. The move would cover 36,000 senior administrators in Whitehall departments and quangos.

Those on the most senior grades would be put on fixed-term contracts and more “big hitters” from private industry brought in to identify savings.

Mr Maude said: “Most senior civil servants do a great job, but where there is a failure and under-performance there should be no place to hide.”

William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary, announced the Conservatives would introduce a “public reading stage” to the passage of Bills through Parliament allowing the public to study their details online – and add their comments.

Mr Hague described the move as a “new and radical policy to throw open the doors of Parliament” by allowing citizens to participate in the legislative process.

He said: “Our democracy can only gain from the greater involvement of its citizens, and our country will surely gain from bringing to the 21st century the enduring power of the great Conservative theme of ‘trust the people’.”

The Tories are also planning to create a network of powerful “executive mayors” to be elected in referendums in 12 major cities. They would take over the role of traditional chief executives and be given the power to hire and fire staff and to direct council spending.

A Conservative government would also legislate to force all councils to publish details online of every item of spending over £500.

Opening the Manchester conference, the party chairman Eric Pickles warned activists that they still faced a “mountain to climb” to win the next election.

He said the election campaign started now and chided those who believed they were on course for certain victory.

“Take a tip from your Uncle Eric. It's just not going to be the case. Be under no illusion. The General Election is not in the bag,” Mr Pickles said.

“To form the next government we need to take 117 seats. The Conservative Party hasn't done that since 1931. We need a swing greater than Margaret Thatcher managed in 1979.”

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