Cabinet Office floats new pay transparency proposals

Written by Jim Dunton on 16 November 2017 in News
News

Updated guidance would name senior officials earning £90k or more and detail expenses as well as benefits in kind

Cabinet Office minister Chris Skidmore Credit: Cabinet Office

Proposals for a new transparency code of practice put out to consultation by the Cabinet Office include plans to identify “senior officials” earning £90,000 or more and publish their salaries, expenses, and payments in kind.

The measure – suggested for adoption in public authorities’ publication schemes – drops the transparency bar significantly from the £150,000-a-year level recommended by the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information last year, which inspired the draft guidance.

A Cabinet Office consultation on the proposals said ministers agreed with the commission’s recommendation to take further steps to increase transparency on senior executives pay and benefits.

It says: “Although many public authorities already publish this information it is important there is a consistent standard across all public authorities where appropriate. 


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“The default position should be that all relevant public authorities publish information on senior executive pay and benefits and that this information is easily accessible to members of the public.”

The detailed guidance recognises government departments’ transparency progress – with most, if not all, publishing director-level pay and bonuses in their annual reports. It also notes the “increased range of data” published in respect of staff at Senior Civil Service 2 level and above.

It says public authorities should publish pay details of staff at director level and their equivalents covering salaries of £90,000 and above, with names and job titles included.

The guidance also calls for expenses details of senior staff at director level and their equivalents to be published, and says “details of international and domestic travel, business expenses and hospitality received” should be included.

Details of benefits-in-kind that are additional to base salary for officers at director level and equivalents are also required for publication.

In a foreword to the consultation on the new guidance, which runs until the beginning of February, Cabinet Office minister Chris Skidmore said the code represented the government’s continued commitment to proactive transparency.

“The public should not have to resort to making FoI requests for information that should be made consistently and routinely available,” he said.

“The draft code makes clear public authorities’ obligations to provide enhanced transparency data about senior pay and benefits and FOI performance as part of their existing commitments to maintain a publication scheme.”

Elsewhere, the proposed guidance seeks to provide additional detail on the grounds under which public authorities may choose to consider Freedom of Information Act request “vexatious”.

It also offers tips on boosting transparency in relation to data on outsourced public services, which providers often attempt to avoid through the use of “confidentiality clauses”.

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