Public sector workers who are unwilling or unable to do their jobs effectively should be sacked. This should apply to a road sweeper on £15,000 a year but it should also apply to a Council chief executive on £150,000 a year.
However legislation brought in by the Labour Government gave the failing fat cats special protection. The Local Authorities (Standing Order) Regulations 2001, require a Designated Independent Person (DIP) to review cases where a local authority wishes to take disciplinary action against an officer designated the Head of Paid Service (who will usually be the Chief Executive.)
This means long delays and six figure legal bills – plus the continued salary costs while the CEO is suspended. So even where there is clear evidence of incompetence or misconduct it tends to be quicker and cheaper to give a CEO a huge golden goodbye to secure their departure.
The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has announced he is streamlining the process. He says:
"A Town Hall chief executive costs a lot of money, but if they are simply not up to the job, councillors must be able to get rid of them quick smart without having to throw away thousands in parachute pay-offs.
" It is ridiculous that councils feel forced to give bumper pay offs to dismiss inadequate chief executives simply to avoid these unnecessary golden goodbye reviews from expensive lawyers.
" Scrapping this bizarre bureaucratic ritual will save taxpayers money and put the decision firmly back in democratically elected hands. "
Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, says:
"Taxpayers will welcome moves to cut burdensome red tape that leaves them paying huge amounts to departing council bosses who aren't up to scratch. Chief executives at successful councils have nothing to fear from this change but it will stop any complacency among those who aren't doing what they can to deliver value for money. Elected councillors need to be able to change a chief executive without paying a reward for failure at the expense of local residents."
This doesn't mean that councils could or should be able to sack a CEO on a political whim. There will need to be valid grounds, as with a road sweeper (or a care assistant who tends to be be paid less.)
The changes announced today are about fairness as well as value for money.