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'It makes no sense for the Assembly to have so many chiefs' Growing anger as WAG makes seven appointments over pounds 120k.

Byline: Martin Shipton

SERIOUS questions are being asked today about a shake-up of senior civil servants within the Assembly Government that has led to more of them earning above pounds 120,000.

Seven "director general" posts were created last year in a streamlining move aimed at cutting overall costs. But critics are unconvinced that the new arrangements are appropriate. Concerns have also been raised about "back-up" appointments that risk eating into savings made as a result of the reorganisation.

It is understood, for example, that when Andrew Davies was Finance Minister, he resisted a request from Emyr Roberts - Director General, Public Services and Local Government Delivery - to appoint a Director of Public Services Delivery at a pay grade immediately below his own. We have now confirmed such an appointment is being made.

Meanwhile, concerns have also been raised about the general competence of civil servants.

A well-placed source said: "I have real worries about whether many of the senior civil servants we have in Wales are up to coping with primary lawmaking powers.

"It has been difficult to persuade people to go on attachment to Whitehall departments to broaden their experience. Imagine the value of spending some time working in the Treasury, for example."

Professor Brian Morgan, of the Creative Leadership and Enterprise Centre at Uwic's Cardiff School of Management, said: "It used to be the case that government departments had a permanent secretary with two deputy secretaries beneath them. that is obviously no longer enough for the Welsh Assembly Government.

"Now there are effectively seven deputy secretaries, all on salaries of over pounds 120,000. In Whitehall terms, the Assembly is a small department and it makes no sense to have so many chiefs."

Last November, the Permanent Secretary, Dame Gill Morgan, told the Institute of Welsh Affairs in an interview that she had reorganised management structure so senior civil servants working for the Assembly could communicate on equal terms with their counterparts in Whitehall departments.

Previously, there had been 16 executive members of a management board, although in addition to the Permanent Secretary only one had been designated a senior director.

Prof Morgan said: "This idea that you need to look people in the eye from a position of equal status and inflated salary is absolutely ridiculous. You gain respect by the strength of what you are saying and how you say it, not because of the status you hold. If you have to rely on some artificial status, it suggests you are not up to the job you are doing.

"The status argument can be taken further. If each director general is responsible on average for 20 senior civil servants, and they meet someone on the same pay grade in Whitehall who has 55 senior civil servants answerable to them, they are going to want more people in their empire."

Prof Morgan said creating such a large number of directors general was a variation on Parkinson's Law - a satirical creation which states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

"Having a top-heavy structure like this must have an impact on morale lower down," he said.

Asked whether he thought senior civil servants in Wales were up to running an administration with primary lawmaking powers, Prof Morgan said: "It seems to me that civil servants who have come up through the Welsh Office have not had any experience anywhere else. Often they've relied on Buggins' turn for promotion. I don't want to state categorically that they're not up to dealing with primary powers. We will have to see."

Professor Kevin Morgan of Cardiff University, who chaired the Yes For Wales referendum campaign in 1997, said: "There is unprecedented pressure on the public purse, with what has been referred to as two Parliaments of pain ahead of us.

"The biggest challenge of all is how to achieve sustainability and fairness in the face of a decade of austerity.

"It is quite clear there is a need in Wales for us to fully acknowledge the extent to which we have screwed up in terms of costs and structures in the public sector.

"There is really deep disquiet about the scale of local government, with 22 councils, and how we then copied that with 22 local health boards. When that reorganisation took place, chief executives and finance directors were appointed, but when the number of health boards came back down to eight, they were allowed to keep their jobs.

"For ordinary people in Wales - and I count myself among them - what has happened beggars belief. We have to get things right in the public sector."

On the question of whether senior civil servants are up to handling primary lawmaking powers, Prof Morgan said: "Hope springs eternal. It will certainly make more exacting demands on the current structure of the Assembly Government. I'm not sure people have really thought about this in the detail we should.

"Ultimately, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating."

A spokesman for the Permanent Secretary said: "The number of directors has decreased by over 25% since the restructuring of the senior Civil Service last year. This reduction has achieved savings of over pounds 500,000 and reflects our commitment to a structured reduction in the number of senior civil servant posts over time.

"We do intend to appoint a Director for Public Service Improvement as part of a review of the Public Services and Performance department. This position will ensure we continue to deliver the Government's ambitious public service improvement agenda, and is particularly important given the current financial pressures facing the public sector. The creation of this position will be accompanied by a reduction of seven senior Civil Service posts as part of the departmental review. This reduction represents a further net saving to the Assembly Government of just under pounds 100,000.

"As a dynamic organisation, there will inevitably be further internal changes as we continue to reflect and deliver government commitments. Any appointment has to be justified by a comprehensive business case, and is fully considered by the independently chaired remuneration committee.

"Our skills strategy has been rated third of all UK government departments, and we are confident that we have the skills, capability and capacity to fully support ministers in delivering their commitments to the people of Wales."

YOUR VIEWS Send your comments on this story by writing to Letters to the Editor, Western Mail, Media Wales Ltd, Six Park Street, Park Street, Cardiff CF10 1XR or by e-mailing Comment: page 16 more Top council job advertised with huge salary as critics say executive pay in the public sector is 'completely divorced' from reality The next chief executive of Wales' largest council will earn more than the First Minister.

Whoever replaces Cardiff council's former head Byron Davies' at the city's County Hall has been promised pounds 175,000 a year in a job advertisement launched by the authority.

He or she will become Wales' highest-paid town hall official, taking home more than Carwyn Jones, whose salary is pounds 132,862, but less than Cardiff's highest-paid public servant, medical director Ian Lane of the Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust, who pocketed pounds 192,800 last year.

The Taxpayers' Alliance said executive pay in the public sector was "completely divorced" from reality.

Policy analyst John O'Connell said: "Ordinary families don't pay their taxes to fund gold-plated deals for public sector fat-cats.

"Taxpayers want transparency, accountability and restraint in setting top public sector pay."

Across the UK, council chief executives' salaries have risen to as much as pounds 247,164 a year for Joanna Killian, chief executive of Essex council.

Labour councillor Martin Holland said he was no longer surprised by huge chief executive salaries, but said the council needed to come clean about any additional pension benefits that would be paid to acting chief executive, Tom Morgan, from the public purse.

The chief executive's post has been advertised with a deadline of April 4 on the council's website and in the local authority publication Municipal Journal.

The advert says the next occupant of the office will have to be "an inspired and committed candidate ready to provide corporate leadership to drive forward strategic organisational change".

It adds: "Cardiff council has embarked on an innovative and essential transformational change programme which you will lead on, setting the strategic direction of the authority and communicating the vision and values throughout the organisation."

The Institute of Directors has said a managing director of a private organisation with a turnover of between pounds 50m and pounds 500m could expect to earn pounds 141,440.

In a blog post, former Welsh Secretary John Redwood summed up right-wing objections to the scale of local authority chief executive salaries.

Mr Redwood said: "I don't mind people earning big sums in a competitive private sector company which is thriving. I do mind people in the public sector 'earning' salaries well into six figures when we have no choice and when their jobs are not comparable to the jobs in the private sector."


'STREAMLINING': Permanent Secretary Dame Gillian Morgan says the restructuring creating seven directors general will save pounds 500,000. Critics claim that the Assembly's top-heavy structure will hit staff morale lower down
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 24, 2010
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