computer keyboardLocal authorities are taking a prominent role in cutting pay gaps by promoting living wages and reining in chief executive salaries, new research has revealed.

Campaign group One Society analysed pay policy statements from 173 of the 174 local authorities in England and Wales and followed up with freedom of information requests.

It found more than 20% of councils are committed to ensuring staff are paid a living wage, in some cases including contractor staff. Some 12.5% have taken steps to cut chief executive salaries, while more than 10% also plan to institute pay ratios between the worst and best paid.

But the group warned that comparing councils was difficult because different local authorities report in different ways.

One Society director Duncan Exley said: "The Government needs to take steps to ensure that public sector pay policy reporting is more comprehensive and comparable if their objectives of accountability and fairness are to be achieved.

"Local authorities are large employers and procurers of services. Consequently, their pay policies will have a significant effect on the well-being of local people and the local economy."

The report also warned that the Government's intention to promote fair pay in the public sector was being undermined by gaps in reporting requirements for large sections of the public sector, and a failure to implement the Fair Pay Review's recommendation that accountability is "extended into the public services industry".

Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said: "The door to council pay practices has been unlocked by this Government's Localism Act - local authorities must now publicly justify their pay policies; senior salaries above £100,000 a year; big bonuses or pay rises; or if they hire someone already getting retirement or severance money from the public purse.

"Every local taxpayer has a right to know and challenge how their hard-earned cash is being spent and whether local pay is fair, fit for purpose and fully democracy proofed."

© 2012 Press Association