Today we learn that Councils are refusing to publish the salaries of their senior officers. How can they get away with witholding this important and interesting public information?
We the taxpayers pay their salaries. We have just seen how expense bills for MPs can be cut once the details are published and the public allowed to see and comment on the claims being made. If it works for public officials on £64,000 a year, surely it could work as well for public officials on six figure salaries? Why should they be immune to the cleansing winds of transparency?
Highly paid people on boards of private sector companies have to reveal all their remuneraiton in the accounts once a year. Why can’t we know what the Education Officer or the Planning Officer earns and claims?
One of David Cameron’s best and most radical policies for curbing the deficit and reducing needless and wasteful spending is his pledge to publish on line every item over £25,000 spent by central government, should he become Prime Minister. You should expect officials to become much more circumspect about what they spend if such a regime comes to pass. Why can’t we have it now from our local Councils?
We know that Councils can vary enormously in how much they charge for what they deliver. In my local area we have Parish Councils under both Lib dem and Conservative control. The Lib dem one charges £114.65 a year for a Band D household, twice the level of any Conservative one. The lowest cost Conservative Council charges just £17.50. Some of this is the range of things the Council thinks it needs to do, but some of it is efficiency and cost control. If we the public knew more of what they spend, we and our Councillors could be better watchdogs of the public purse. We might decide we want fewer things as well as seeing obvious ways to do more for less.