10 May 2012

The tide is turning

Executive summary:

Pay levels are about to go through the floor.


Last night was the inaugural meeting of the Remuneration Committee which has come about as the result of the Localism Act. The council have to consider what is an appropriate salary for senior staff rather than sitting on the sidelines whilst a race to the top just kept on going.

Here is the agenda:
Remuneration Committee Agenda 9 May 2012
Mr Mustard looked at the agenda and thought "great, we will be at the blogger committee quite quickly" and there was the downfall of Brian Coleman to discuss with a twitter rumour spreading that he was out of Cabinet and given the sop of one committee to chair. Mr Mustard was wrong. Councillors were much more interested in setting executive pay than he expected. Pay attention there Cllr Thomas, like you were last night, as for possibly the first time Mr Mustard is going to write something positive about you. Here are the reports.

Remuneration Committee Reports 9 May 2012
At this meeting we had the 5 councillors sat with Nick Walkley on one side of the room and Sarah Murphy-Brookman sat on the other with her two hired in for the job personnel experts. If non-stick thought that he would have a gentler ride sat with the councillors he was mistaken. We were in room 3 which doesn't see much service (planning had bagged rooms 1&2 as they tend to get more public at them) and is hopelessly laid out so that wherever you sit in the public gallery one of the councillors is blotted out behind a pillar (sometimes this is an advantage).

The committee were only asked to note the report so they are not bound by the contents and look likely to tear up anything in the future that they don't like. 

Look at Appendix A, item 2, Termination payments. These have to be approved by the committee. If the Chief Executive wants rid of someone he will now have to get the committee's approval for any payoffs. Hopefully that will stop the 6 figure payoffs which have featured in the past. Either they leave with contractual entitlement like junior staff or they just resign and go.

Appendix B was interesting. Richard Cornelius spoke up about the table on page 10. He didn't like such high minimum figures. Mr Mustard has an easy solution to this. Remove the minimums. A minimum of £200,976 for the Chief Executive after we heard they had come down by 19% and a further 10% in 2011! Did Nick Walkley design this table by any chance?

The final line on page 10 that progression is through annual increments is odd. Sarah B-M presented a pretty chart of meaningless numbers showing the pay grades and values for various points levels without equating any of the points to the actual posts. It had 3 levels of pay. Competent, Developing and Entry without there being any automatic advancement from one to the next but still it would seem an annual increase; it that is an inflation adjustment then fair enough. Mr Mustard will bring you the chart when it has been amended to reflect real posts. 

Page 17 sets out the most important principle. In future officer pay in Barnet will be in the range below market median (the middle salary for the job) but above lower quartile. This does mix up two measuring systems. It would have been simpler to set pay as being in the third quartile i.e. you are paid a salary which would not put you in the top half or bottom quarter of earners. 

Page 19, item 6.10. The target pay bill for senior management is £6,274,000 which is still utterly ridiculous but not quite as ridiculous as the existing one for £9,500,000, and

now to the meeting itself

Jack Cohen was first to stick the boot in. He raised the question of Town Hall Tax Dodgers (© Eric Pickles MP) and whether we will look at each person's pay (rather than abstract scales).

Jack also queried the Hay pay scale points in case they led to self perpetuating structures.

Jack, as alert as ever, also probed the question of equality.

Jack got in a fourth time at the end of the meeting to criticise Profit Related Pay and to state that "the Ethos of Public Service has been lost". Jack has been around for a while but he is no fossil. He abruptly reminded well overpaid officers of why they exist. We haven't seen much public service in the parking service have we Jack thanks to a payment system which puts the convenience for the service ahead of the convenience of the public. Well said. You didn't hog the meeting and made some telling points.

Richard Cornelius started by confirming that Cllr Thomas was attending in his capacity as Deputy Leader which Cllr Moore wanted to check for some reason. Leave him alone please Alison, he is going to do more good for the pay structure than the rest of you put together.

Corny started by talking about the problem of paying too much (hoorah) and asked a rhetorical question "Could we get a Chief Executive for less than £200,000?" (Oh yes) and he doesn't want an explosion in officer pay (Hoorah, but it has already happened and we need to put the ship into reverse).

Corny wanted a simple pay comparison to help him but one was not available. 

What Corny wanted was maximum flexibility and the opportunity to bear down on pay and still fill difficult posts (it looks like better officers for less pay will be the order of the day. That will teach them not to make up stupid slogans. Yes, and "Putting the Community First" i.e. before Officers)

Cllr Thomas then flexed his muscles. He wanted to know the percentage difference in the scale of a grade. It wasn't yet set. He wanted that information for the June meeting. OK.

He wanted to know if the council could experiment and pay the median less 20 or 25%? He thought that management costs were out of control and they have got to drive down pay. Several pay models will be brought back to the June meeting (must put it in the diary as soon as set)

Cllr Thomas also wanted Performance Related Pay. He expects and demands productivity. Let's get into the 21st century he said. He is frustrated by the slow pace of local government (aren't we all).

Thomas wanted annual reviews against goals and competencies. Why does everyone get a standard pay rise (probably for inflation). Mr Mustard sees where Cllr Thomas is coming from but thinks the costs and flaws inherent in PRP make it expensive and cumbersome and we want less administration not more. Better to get recruitment right and terminate in the first 3 months anyone who isn't up to snuff.

Non-stick Nick was struggling to exert any influence yesterday evening. There was no love lost between him and Cllr Thomas in particular and Mr Mustard thought that the way that non-stick spoke to Thomas was unfortunate at the very least if not downright disrespectful. The councillor was doing what he is paid to do which is to question on behalf of the residents and this resident will stand shoulder to shoulder with Cllr Thomas on the subject of reining in excessive officer pay.

Walkley said he wanted to pour water on Thomas's enthusiasm. Have to be careful blah blah blah.

Later Walkley said he would offer Thomas some comfort but it would probably have the opposite effect. Ouch! There is some history here that Mr Mustard doesn't know about.

Look out Nick. This is what is coming.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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