Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The rate for the Job

There is a suggestion that in future MPs’ pay will be set by an independent body not by their vote. It is an example of a bad habit of politicians, to set up supposedly independent bodies to be responsible for politically sensitive issues. This may be good in the short term but it takes the responsibility away from elected politicians. If it is a tricky issue then they should be responsible for it. And accept that responsibility.

An independent body would lead to no-one being accountable for MPs’ pay. A better solution would be for an outgoing Parliament to set MPs’ pay for the duration of the next Parliament. That would encourage accountability. And low inflation.

I think the same principle should apply for Councillors’ expenses.

Coincidentally, the local papers reported sizeable increases in pay for the executive heads of Northumberland County Council without the increases being discussed by Councillors. Although apparently it was procedurally correct, and done to ensure the retention of key staff during the transition to the new unitary authority, to me it shows:
- A contempt for Council tax-payers: the increases alone approximated to the average pay of people in North Northumberland.
- A strange prioritisation of expenditure. Running Northumberland County Council during the transition period should be one of the most interesting jobs in local government. Any manager needing a retention to stay probably shouldn’t be retained.

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