Finch Cllr David Finch, the Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Well being on Essex County Council, says the Council makes no apology for having a highly paid Chief Executive.

This evening, ITV's Tonight programme will detail the salaries of a number of leading public officials including a number of Chief Executives of the largest authorities in local government.

Unlike some others, Essex has actively engaged with the making of this programme in an effort help explain the responsibilities and complexities of the job, the unprecedented transformation journey that Essex is embarked upon but also because we are keen to engage in a debate around pay in the public sector.

Essex is a £2.2 billion annual organisation has 38,000 staff and serves 1.6million people. However size alone does not make a particular salary justified.

Our ambitions for the organisation are without precedent. Conservative Home readers may well remember that Essex announced a couple of weeks ago the largest savings targets in local government history – some £300m by 2012 equating to a third of our annual net budget.

Alongside members it will be the responsibility of the Chief Executive to deliver this programme of change that literally means looking at every part of our operation and asking whether it could be done better or more efficiently or if it needs to be done at all.

Content to sit back and simply let the organisation tick along we are not.

In the last 18 months with the Chief Executive in position, we have saved a total of £98.5m for the Essex taxpayer. And we are on target to save an additional £30m before the end of this year.

At the same time we have pledged to keep council tax increase below inflation for the next four years, if not better, as we have done so for the past four years. This is delivering real, tangible value for money for the people of Essex.

The Chief Executive of Essex has also been since September 2007 the lead officer of Brentwood Borough Council which Brandon Lewis describes in some detail in his earlier post this morning. This arrangement has saved the taxpayers in Brentwood over £300,000 and we believe points the way to an alternative to expensive local government reorganisation.

People will, rightly, ask questions on whether the public sector delivers value for money. In Essex, with year on year low council tax, a huge programme of modernisation and the largest savings target in local government we absolutely believe that this is the case.

We also believe that we pay a fair price given the role and responsibilities of the Chief Executive.  Setting an arbitrary limit at a national level flies in face of letting local people make these decisions. These decisions, rightly, should be taken at the local level and decided by local politicians who are fully accountable via the ballot box to local people.

We take the view that we need people of quality if we are to bring about radical and major change and if we are to deliver enhanced services and value for money for the people of Essex – the philosophy that is at the heart of our administration.

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