Publish appropriate levels for “super-head” pay, recommends government committee

Publish appropriate levels for "super-head" pay, recommends government committee

Increasing “super-head” salaries are not being taking seriously by the Treasury  – and appropriate levels of pay ought to be published, says a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report published today.

The committee reviewed government accounts, and is “sceptical” the government is taking the pay of so-called super-heads “seriously” as the Treasury has only recently started collating information about the academy sector.

PAC chairperson Margaret Hodge said: “The Treasury has not demonstrated sufficient oversight in ensuring that all parts of the public sector comply with the Government’s expectations on pay restraint.

“The Treasury sets the framework for public sector pay but has been slow to exert its direct control over decisions taken by the wider public sector when setting remuneration packages.

“The Treasury has also been slow in identifying and addressing seemingly excessive pay awards for some roles in the education sector, such as University Vice Chancellors and ‘Super-Heads’, and has only recently started to collate information in areas such as the Academy sector.”

The report adds: “Given this track record, we are sceptical as to whether government are taking this matter seriously and are concerned that messages around the need for pay restraint for the public sector are undermined by remuneration packages offered to more senior public servants.”

A key recommendation from the report is that the government ought to publish “clear expectations of appropriate senior level pay” for all publically funded bodies.

In October, when asked about super-heads’ pay, the Treasury permanent secretary Sir Nicholas Macpherson told the Public Accounts Committee that the treasury does take a close interest in any ‘bidding up’ of wages.

He said: “It is always worrying—the Treasury always takes quite a close interest if we think that, within a sector, different organisations are just bidding up wages.

“You occasionally get people in the railways bidding up wages. It is something on which we need to focus, and it ties in with one of Amyas’s [Amyas Morse, Comptroller and Auditor General, National Audit Office] qualifications. I know that this is a tricky ideological issue, but one challenge is to get better data and reporting from academies.”

The Treasury has stated that if “pay anomalies” are found these would be taken up with the Department for Education.

Approximately 4,000 schools have so far converted to academy status or been established as free schools. There are 20,200 headteachers across the country, of which 3,500 are academy headteachers. Multi-academy trusts sometimes also employ executive headteachers who oversee a number of schools.