Eric Pickles probably thought he'd hit on a brilliant plan: get the councils to publish details of those earning more than £58,200 a year, and you'd get them to think twice about paying these vast sums to the one or two staff members who have earned the privilege.
However, he massively underestimated the greed of councils, and the vast swathes of council members on over-inflated salaries. Now many are saying that they simply have too many of these massive earners to be able to publish all the details.
Army of overpaidCouncils are apparently arguing that to publish these massive lists of the overpaid (alongside details of any spending over £500) would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Pickles claimed that The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea had argued that the threshold for earnings was too low and would include a 'fair proportion' of the workforce, so that publishing details would be an 'onerous burden'. It has since published the details anyway.
Nottingham City Council, meanwhile, argued that council staff would be at risk from the anger of the public if they knew how much they earned. Essex County Council was concerned that it could 'lead to misunderstandings and lack of trust'.
This begs the question of why they are so certain of a backlash. If the council staff are worth their pay packets, and are fairly rewarded for a doing a decent job, then there should be no hesitation about admitting it.
The only reason to worry about making their pay known, is if deep down they already know that they are overpaying staff, and that if other people knew about it there would be a massive outcry.
Hiding spendingThe same reticence is being shown about revealing spending. According to a story in the Telegraph, shockingly, Nottingham City Council said that ordinary people lacked the skills to determine whether the amounts paid to staff and spent by councils constituted value for money, saying: "It is not possible for citizens to judge value for money, necessity of expenditure etc from the information given."
Pickles said: "It's quite frankly insulting and not credible to say the public won't understand spending data put online." "This is about a number of vested interests trying to dodge the sunlight of transparency and cover up their expenditure. You have to ask, what have they got to hide?"
So what do you think? Are they tying to hide their shocking levels of spending and waste, or do they have a point, is this taking transparency too far and costing a small fortune in the process?
Let us know in the comments.