Watchdog hits out at chiefs' salaries

COUNTY chiefs have today defended the wage of its chief executive, despite a watchdog saying increasing salaries for top-dogs had no obvious benefits.

Rebecca Lefort

COUNTY chiefs have today defended the wage of its chief executive, despite a watchdog saying increasing salaries for top-dogs had no obvious benefits.

In a new report released today, the Audit Commission said a merry-go-round of local council chief executives was pushing up taxpayer-funded salaries, but residents were not seeing improvements as a result.

The commission's report showed the wage packets of council heads had jumped by more than 90 per cent in the last decade, a trend which has seen Suffolk County Council controversially employ Andrea Hill on almost £220,000.

She was originally chief executive of Bedfordshire County Council.

Her salary puts her in the top six highest paid council chief executives in the country - earning more than Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

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The Audit Commission chief executive Steve Bundred said: "The current trend towards recruiting existing chief executives, particularly by poorer performing authorities, has meant that recruitment costs and wages have risen.

"However, recruiting the tried and tested doesn't automatically produce a boost in performance or encourage innovation.

“While an experienced pair of hands can be seen as a safe option for individual councils there are risks if this continues across all local authorities.'

However a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: "Suffolk County Council stands by the appointment and remains convinced she was the best candidate and that her much publicised salary is fair and reflects her role and responsibilities.

“The Audit Commission report sets out the high degree of public scrutiny associated with a county council chief executive's role and the lack of job security should the authority fail. It also demonstrates how in recent times the job has grown in complexity and accountability.

"There is no criticism in the detailed report about the salary level paid to Mrs Hill - only the rationale behind why such salaries are to be expected."

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