Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Councillors must rethink pay deal

Sometimes the actions of politicians make one wonder if they live in the same world as the rest of us.

In Derry City Council, the chief executive's salary band is to increase by £10,000. It is accepted that the outgoing chief executive did a fine job and that the post is now a more high profile one than it was in the past. The increase is being justified after comparisons with other council chief posts here and in England.

But there is one significant difference. Councils here provide a much smaller range of services than in other regions of the UK, having no control over housing or social services, for example. The often trotted out excuse for high salaries for top posts here is that unless we pay large sums of money we won't attract the right calibre of candidate. That is the same argument that is used to justify paying bankers huge bonuses and salaries and the public refuses to swallow it.

In Derry, an increase to the chief executive's salary will be hard to countenance for many council employees who face being made unemployed. The council is considering reducing its current seven departments to three and at least 30 jobs are under threat. For councillors to seek to rack up the pay rate for its top official at the same time as making staff unemployed beggars belief.

And ratepayers will also ponder why the outgoing chief executive - who is moving to a Scottish authority - is now being paid her relocation allowance. She only claimed a small part of the £5,000 allowance when taking up the Derry post. How has it now been triggered when she is leaving?

In these times of austerity politicians must view all their decisions in a wide context.

They must make those decisions as transparent as possible and think of the implications for their constituents.

It is not too late for Derry's councillors to change tack.

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