Tuesday 21 May 2013

WLGA...one of life's mysteries.

The article in the Western Mail about senior council officers' pay, which, as you saw from my last post, starred Carmarthenshire Council as top of the bill, featured the usual defence from the Chief Executive of the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association), Mr Steve Thomas who is brought out every time anyone picks on the weighty pay packets of our public sector officers. 

The WLGA is one of those organisations in which the average person, including me, as I am very average, can see no practical purpose whatsoever. I'm sure Mr Thomas would disagree, but with its "primary purposes to promote better local government and its reputation and to support authorities in the development of policies and priorities which will improve public services and democracy" evidence is thin on the ground that this is any more than a talking shop, much concerned, it would appear, with reputation.

As Mr Thomas was so defensive in the newspaper about executive pay I wondered what the staff, and other costs were for the WLGA itself. I could find nothing on their website at all. The English equivalent however, the LGA has a dedicated page to 'Public Information' listing pay, contracts, expenses etc. All the usual.

I emailed the WLGA to enquire where I might find such information as I would have thought it would all be within the Publication Scheme under the FOIA. Although it was not a FOI request. I received a response this morning from Mr Thomas who has kindly directed me to the WLGA accounts, squirrelled away in the website. I'll not provide a link....see how long it takes you to find it. I appreciate his quick response though.

Mr Thomas helpfully tells me that his salary is £146,751 (including pension etc) and the five directors earn between £65k and £85k per year. So far so good. But Mr Thomas then goes on to tell me that as the WLGA is not a statutory body (it is 'autonomous' and part of the LGA, a Quango I believe) it doesn't come under FOI legislation, so they're not obliged to tell us anything. But, according to Mr Thomas they seek to 'embody this in their work'. This is far from evident on their website. Of course, our very own Meryl Gravell and Kevin Madge are Chairs/Deputy Chairs of the WLGA Council. In fact, Member Services account for £92k of its expenditure.

Despite not being 'Statutory', the WLGA are consulted on public issues such as health care, education, electoral boundaries, city regions, housing etc and even, I discovered, the filming of council meetings, and a myriad of matters in their various sub-committees, Advisory Groups, subsidiary companies and those dreaded Task and Finish Groups.

I am somewhat surprised by this, even small Community Councils are subject to the FOIA, so why on earth is a large organisation, with staff costs of £4m and in receipt of £8m of Welsh Government grants, and £2m worth of subscriptions from Welsh public bodies, not under the same legislation?

I daresay someone will tell me, but for now, it remains a mystery.


Anonymous said...

I found the accounts for y/e 31 march 2008 - otherwise zilch. Why is there no site map on their website? the search function requires knowledge of the "magic word". Not a particularly helpful website in many ways.

Anonymous said...

@ anon 08:56, I managed to find the accounts for y/e 31 march 2008 but like you I failed to find any other WLGA financial accounts. I was going to ask for 50/50 but I have decided to phone a friend. Jacqui...Help!

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 10.55 With the WLGA spending over £10,000 on website services over two years you'd think it would be easy to find.

Anyway, the link is here

...and click on the download; 'WLGA Council papers 28/09/2012'