Friday 7 June 2013

Rhodri Glyn Thomas upsets some fat cats

Rhodri Glyn Thomas may be standing down at the next Assembly elections, but he is not going quietly. A year ago he launched a campaign to get the Welsh Government to rethink its plans to pass on Westminster cuts to council tax benefit, and he eventually succeeded in getting the government to bring forward a measure this year which will help 300,000 people. Even Kevin Madge, the leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, praised his efforts.

This week came the news that Rhodri Glyn Thomas has been instrumental in forcing the Welsh Government into another U-turn over senior council officer pay. The Welsh Government will now table proposals to set up an independent panel to control the pay of council fat cats.

There have been predictable howls of outrage from the Welsh Local Government Association and threats that in between trips to Buckingham Palace to collect their CBEs, MBEs and other gongs for loyal service, etc., etc., the deserving rich from Welsh county halls may find time to sue the rest of us for compensation.

It has also been argued that the existence of all these generous pay deals could be a major stumbling block to the overdue and much-needed reform of local government in Wales. Fewer councils would mean fewer officers, and that could mean lots of very expensive golden parachutes and redundancy packages.

Others have argued that having centralised control of senior officer pay is an attack on local democracy and the right of local councillors to reward their officers as they see fit, even though senior officer pay is already subject to national terms and conditions. Try telling that to the long suffering people of Carmarthenshire and see if you live to tell the tale.

If it is a competitive market, it's a very strange one with enormous disparities. In Wrexham only one officer earns more than £100,000 (£105,000 according to the BBC), and the roof has not fallen in yet. Carmarthenshire, by contrast, has enough big earners to fill a small bus (not that they would be seen dead on one, of course). In fact, Carmarthenshire's chief executive is either the highest earning chief executive in Wales or the second highest, depending on who's counting. The departure of Cardiff's chief executive is likely to remove any niggling doubts and ensure that Mark James finally gets the top spot.

Something the WLGA would probably also rather keep quiet about is the peculiar correlation between top earning council officers and council scandals. Carmarthenshire County Council regularly makes the news headlines despite the best efforts of its bloated PR machine, and over in Pembrokeshire the council has had a very torrid time with the press and interfering government ministers.

Rhodri Glyn Thomas has also called on Welsh local government to begin developing talent of its own rather than buying in expensive imports from England. Perhaps that might mean that counties like Carmarthenshire could in future even get chief executives who can speak Welsh, as well as costing a fraction of what we pay now.


Jac o' the North, said...

Something else that needs to be highlighted is the correlation between the pay of a council's senior officers and the population of the area governed.

On one level this makes perfect sense . . . until it's applied to rural Wales when it becomes an incentive to allow or encourage the building of houses for which there is no local demand.

Something else that should be less of a problem if more of the senior
officers in Welsh local authorities were Welsh.

Anonymous said...

Rhodri Glyn Thomas is a class politician, at least as a backbencher. He's scored a couple of big wins now.

Cibwr said...

Kilbrandon recommended a unified public service to replace the Welsh civil service and local government service, presumably that would create unified pay scales etc... might be something long term we should consider?

Anonymous said...

Rhodei glyn is NOT a class politician. Cymdeithas have forced him out because his welsh language record is less than gleaming, and he was an embarrassment to the party as a minister. I'm suprised he managed to support the right amendment. Can't wait for Adam price...

Anonymous said...

Rhodri now needs to push hard for a Public Inquiry into planning. He has requested this, he now needs to refresh these calls.
Innocent and unsuspecting members of the public should never be the ones to suffer over dodgy planning applications.

Tessa said...

It was a condition of Mark James's appointment, I am VERY sure, that he learned Welsh. He made a half-arsed effort and had a few classes, initially, I understand - then stopped bothering I believe.

Anonymous said...

There is much abuse of the planning system which has been aired on television programmes.Of course there should be a public inquiry into what has and is happening in Carmarthen.What good is the Welsh government if it allows obvious abuses to take place? The system can in many cases
ruin peoples lives especially when enforcement is witheld.