A Faer Point: Local Government executives are worth the money

Published: 18 April 2024


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The TaxPayers’ Alliance ‘Town Hall Rich List’ has hit the headlines this week, once again igniting fierce debate and controversy. This year the TPA is particularly exercised about an apparent ‘surge’ of council executives earning six figures, despite widespread reports of strained services and rising council taxes. And as usual, there’s far more heat than light in the conversation.

Let’s quickly remind ourselves of the burden we ask these individuals to shoulder. They lead large, complex organisations, managing huge workforces and budgets. They oversee vital services for the most vulnerable in society – and if things go wrong, are held responsible. They are scrutinised on a daily basis by elected members and the public, are subject to extensive inspection, regulation and policy regimes, and navigate challenging relationships that require diplomacy, integrity and tremendous resilience, even in the face of criticism or adversity.

Why do they volunteer for this demanding and often thankless role? Because they’re public-spirited people who want to put their skills at the service of society. They demonstrate a life-long dedication to civic service which is underpinned by intrinsic ethical motivation, rather than a primary desire for personal reward. They genuinely want to make the world a better place for the people around them, building vibrant and resilient communities where every individual can thrive.

In these circumstances, it’s no surprise that the pool of talent is smaller than the overall demand. To employ the best people to get results for residents, business and visitors, compensation packages must be sufficiently competitive to both attract and retain top talent. I firmly believe that the salaries of local government leaders are more than justified by the responsibilities they bear, the critical services they provide and the complex challenges they navigate. As stewards of public trust, they are indispensable in shaping our society: recognising and valuing their contribution is essential.

Jason Wheatley is a partner at Faerfield. Originally published in the MJ on 18 April 2024.


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