There is an article in The Times this morning by David Clark who is director-general of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers. In other words he is the shop steward for those Council officers on six figure salaries that the Taxpayers Alliance have been gunning for.
An average unitary council chief executive will run an organisation with 10,000-15,000 staff and an annual budget of £500 million. They are responsible for the financial, performance and risk management of complex organisations and hundreds of services. They are also accountable to local and national politicians, who often want different things. The average unitary chief is paid about £145,000. Similar private sector roles pay twice as much.
It so happens that I suspect that if a Council is to have a Chief Executive at all then paying someone under £100,000 a year to do the post would not constitute value for money. Combining the role with the Finance Director might be sensible. Having a joint Chief Exec with a neighbouring Council might be sensible. Or doing so with another public sector body such as Primary Care Trust. But I doubt paying a lower salary is the way forward. If we pay someone, say, £50,000 less for such a role and end up with someone less capable they will probably end up costing you rather more than £50,000 as a result of their deficiencies.
On the other hand I think Clark just winds people up making a private sector comparison. The role is not similar. In the private sector company, with £500 million revenue, they have to compete with other firms. They have to persuade customers to hand over that £500 million because they choose to. An arrangement where an organisation gets the £500 million in tax, where people face imprisonment if they don't hand over the money, is not similar. It is very different.