A 'data gap' is fuelling public anger about high pay and huge pay-offs at local councils, a committee of MPs has said. A report by the Communities and Local Government select committee urges local authorities to publish information promptly about payments to departing top officers.
But the MPs raise concerns that councils will struggle to do that - because they lack "robust" appraisal systems for senior staff and "accurate data on local pay rates".
Their report calls on the Local Government Association (LGA) to co-ordinate better analysis of regional pay trends and guide councils on "appropriate remuneration levels and changes". It concludes: "Setting a pay rate entails, first, establishing the responsibilities of a job and next identifying the appropriate local pay rate for such a job.
"Councils have access to local market data, but the Local Government Association and regional employers' bodies should address a lack information on the broader pay and recruitment trends over time and across regions. Councils must critically assess the remuneration levels suggested by consultants and job evaluation schemes to ensure a good officer cannot be secured under local market conditions at a lower pay rate."
Town halls currently rely on the 'epaycheck' system which provides up-to-date data on market rates, the report notes.
It concludes that "well-informed local action is more effective in moderating pay levels than centrally imposed approaches" - provided the data is available.
However, overall, the report found that pay was being curbed, with no median salary increase for all jobs at chief executive and senior director level, in the year to the end of March 2013.
Clive Betts, the committee's Labour chairman, said: "It is unacceptable for senior figures to be handed significant increases simply for doing their jobs and we welcome the pay restraint the vast majority of councils are now demonstrating.
"However, as economic conditions improve, councils need to strengthen local control of pay by developing more robust powers for democratic scrutiny."
Betts added: "We call on government to require councils publish details of any redundancy or ex-gratia payments made to departing senior staff within a month of the decision to award it."
The committee's report is at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmcomloc/191/19102.htm