A lot has been written about the levels of pay in the public sector - many commenting on the salaries of in particular senior staff in the public sector. Comparisons have been made with the PM's salary - and with those earning minimum wage in low-skill jobs.
The argument in favour of the seemingly high salaries for senior staff is generally along the lines of "we need to pay attractive salaries to get the best staff" - and to some extent I think that's a good one. An effective set of senior staff in a local authority is essential if we're to deliver the services that we need and want and get the very best value for money from the Council Tax and Central Government Grants that pay for these. It's about having staff that can see ahead, plan ahead, bring froward the best range of choices for the political leadership - the Mayor and Council to discuss, shape and agree. The focus on the actual salary paid is understandable - and as a politician I have to have a credible response to that.
As a Councillor I'm always keen to find ways of driving down the cost of running Lewisham without having an adverse impact on services available to residents. In terms of senior staff that offers us the following:
(a) having few of them
(b) paying them less
(c) sharing the cost with others
Of the above (a) and (b) are easy to understand - but it is (c) that interests me at the moment.
Some work has already taken place about sharing the cost of Chief Executives across different local authorities. As a London Borough with responsibility for a very large range of services that presents a challenge. Would we support a joint arrangement with say the London Borough of Greenwich? Would this be a step on the way to creating 'Super Boroughs' across London?
I think that if we are to consider joint arrangements as a means of reducing the cost of senior pay or justifying the higher pay of some senior staff we need to look first at other public sectors in Lewisham rather than our local government neighbours. In April last year in Hammersmith the Primary Care Trust and the Local Authority took a decision to do just this.
Doing this in Lewisham could save us a bit of cash...but it perhaps has more important points.
The advantages claimed by the Hammersmith and Fulham Team:
"move designed to better target resources on residents in need and boost future comprehensive area assessment scores"
The local Government article also states:
"Hammersmith & Fulham said it planned to create an integrated management team from the executives of both structures, with the appointment of a new managing director of health who will have day-to-day responsibility for the PCT."
Looking at the points raised in some more detail: Anne McDonald , the Local Government Association director of community wellbeing, said evidence from collaborations so far showed areas with roughly 300,000 residents appeared to be around the right size for shared directors and chief executives to work.
Lewisham would appear to fit the bill...but is it Green?
We've long thought that there is a clear role for increasing the democratic accountability of the NHS to its local users. The ability of Lewisham's Healthier Communities Select Committee to scrutinise the local NHS is a step in the right direction. Such joint arrangements would fit in nicely to the Green view of a locally and democratically accountable NHS.
As it is getting the organisations to work more closely together via joint Chief Executive arrangements could lead to a significant saving of public money, better democratic accountability and more joined up services for Lewisham's residents. It's co-operation both within the NHS and with others working with the NHS that will lead to lower costs and better services.