I have heard local authority councillors reject a candidate for a senior management job because he wore brown shoes. I have heard councillors complain that a senior manager looked scruffy and needed a haircut. I have heard councillors complain that an officer came to committee without a jacket and tie. But I have never before heard two councillors complaining that the chief executive was too smartly dressed for the job.

Their complaint was that their chief executive looked “too glamorous” and expensively dressed for the current harsh financial climate. As evidence they quoted the cost of her designer handbag and the frequency with which she changed her hairstyle.

Their argument seems to be that the chief executive was being insensitive in having a photo in the local press looking glamorous alongside of an article on the council’s budget cuts.

The lesson here for all chief execs in the public sector, including those who work for the NHS, is that there now appears to be a dress code for announcing budget cuts.

To ensure no one else falls foul of this unspoken code I thought it might be helpful to spell it out.

“In future all senior managers should wear black or dark blue when discussing redundancies, service cuts or closures. Whilst senior managers and especially chief executives should look professional they should not look prosperous. They should avoid designer labels, not drive expensive cars and of course they should holiday in this country whilst the current economic situation exists. And it is very bad form to have private health care.”

Complying with this simple voluntary code will avoid the need for the board to ensure all senior managers promote the right image by insisting a proportion of a manager’s salary is paid in ASDA vouchers.