Ben Chu has been a leader writer at The Independent since 2004. Before that he worked at the paper on the comment desk, letters department and the personal finance pages. He studied history at Jesus College, Oxford between 1997 and 2000.
Remember those classic cartoons in which a character would run over the edge a cliff and keep going on thin air without realising the ground had disappeared? That reminds me of all these poor saps sent in to defend the transparently over-inflated salaries of executives.
Take this from David Clark, the director general of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, asked about the fact that executive pay for council heads has risen by more than a third in the past four years: "These are big, complex organisations and particularly at a time of economic downturn, you want the most competent people to do those jobs. It is not true that salaries are spiralling out of control... The public sector needs great managers because we are heading for a bad time and the public will want good services without an increase in taxes."
Pay the market rate or miss out on "great managers". We heard this argument ad nauseam during the boom years. It was always self-serving nonsense. But now it sounds positively loopy. Mr Clark clearly hasn't noticed, but the market rate for executive "talent" has fallen through the floor. To which private company is a council executive going to flee if not offered a ridiculous £200,000 per annum salary package?