It's a typically challenging question from the new leader of the council. The underlying implication is too many whatever the answer is. The honest answer is I don't know but that is an unacceptable answer and makes me look foolish. The correct answer is it depends how you count them but that just sounds like I am trying to be cleaver and risks antagonising my new boss. I could say 500 because that's the figure we usually work on but that is likely to be questioned because it too round a number. I can hear the cynic response, "not 498 or 502?" I could say between 482 and 517 last time HR were asked but that sort of answer doesn't inspire confidence. What I need to explain is that if you count every one with manager in their title you get one figure however that would include people like contract managers and project managers who are not generally considered managers because they don't manage any staff. If you define a manager as anyone who manages staff you get a much bigger number because you add on team leaders and supervisors plus we still have some people we call officers in charge who manage staff. If we simply count all those people on a management pay grade we will inflate the numbers even more because people like policy officers ,training officers and inspectors are all paid on grades that equate to a first line manager or above. The last thing I want to do is plant the idea of a pay review of comparative posts. Last time this happen it was a bureaucratic nightmare, in which we managed to make even those whose pay was uplifted feel undervalued, alienate nearly everyone else ,tie ourselves in knots explaining to councillors exactly what a policy officer did or the difference between a social worker and social work assistant only to find we couldn't afford the pay up lifts! So how I answer this question in my first meeting with the new leader after the elections is going to set the tone for our relationship and probably the agenda for the next fours years. No pressure there then!
Blair McPherson former Director of Community Services, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk