Apples and oranges


I read an article this weekend in which it was suggested that Eric Pickles will be asking local authorities to put a cap on their chief executive's salaries so that they do not earn more than the Prime Minister. I do find something ironic in these pronouncements coming from a man who was leader of Bradford Council over twenty years ago when it was amongst the first to break from the practice of paying chief executives using a scale that was based on the population of the area. (I'm tempted to say that Bradford were the first but I haven't done the research to verify if my memory is correct.)

Anyway, the other thing that strikes me about all the talk about whether the head of a local authority should be paid more than the Prime Minister is that it is comparing the allowances paid to an elected office-holder with the salary of an executive officer. To use a cliche, it is comparing apples with oranges. It seems right to me that the allowances paid to MPs and councillors should have some regard to the Prime Minister's allowance. If an elected mayor or council leader were being paid £150,000 a year I think there would be a case to answer. But the Prime Minister is not paid more than the executives who manage the government. Surely the benchmark, if there is to be one, should be with the salary scale of permanent secretaries. But, of course, if that were the case there'd be nothing for Pickles to say.