We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers. This one from Mike Starke was recently sent to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government after he released a paper titled “50 ways to save: Examples of sensible savings in local government” (embedded below for your convenience). Ed
Dear Mr Pickles,
May I congratulate you on one of your suggested measures whereby local authorities could save money, by scrapping the post of chief executive (item 23 in the embedded document below. Ed).
I have advocated this for some years here on the Isle of Wight, where our unitary authority has had no less than eight holders of that position in 14 years. The present incumbent, a former primary school teacher, enjoys a remuneration package of some £185,000, according to an external survey.
Head of legal to go too
My reform would reinstate the former role of County Secretary to the Isle of Wight Council. This person should be legally trained, much as traditional town clerks were. This would obviate the need for a head of legal services, too, a post costing us £106,000 a year here at present.
I am sure the saving of nearly £300,000 of Isle of Wight taxpayers’ cash could be put to better use paying for services, such as reinstating axed library provision or tourist information centres on an island that relies on tourism for its economic viability.
Strategic directors blight local councils
In my researches into profligacy over employment packages for senior county hall staff I discovered that SOLACE (The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers) actively promotes the system of “strategic directors” that blights local government.
The Isle of Wight has suffered as a result of this arrangement whereby highly-paid “managers”, with little or no qualifications for their areas of expertise, preside over departments with often disastrous consequences in terms of delivery or value for money.
This top-heavy tier of management, with its tailback of deputies and assistants, also leads to an over-reliance on expensive “consultants”, many of whom prove as inadequate as they are wasteful of cash resources.
£70,000 paid to SOLACE on the Island
The wheels of this bandwagon are kept greased by Solace Enterprises, a wholly-owned commercial arm of SOLACE, which advertises its ability to call upon some 900 temporary or permanent “strategic directors”. It also offers management consultancy.
A Freedom of Information enquiry revealed our council had paid for nearly £70,000- worth of such dubious expertise in recent years. I am sure many trade unions would be envious of this scheme, with the senior staff’s “union” acting for its council employee members at the same time as it makes money directing aspects of the county hall employers’ operations.
Wisdom in the senior staff reform
As one of the Isle of Wight’s large population of retired persons, I resent my council tax being frittered away on six-figure salaries, while services are cut across the whole community.
I wonder if your department could find time to bring some pressure to bear on the leadership of our council to get it to see the error of its ways and the wisdom of the senior staff reform you have advocated.