The parliamentary committee which attacked 'excessive' pay rises for health service managers in Northern Ireland has given its backing to arrangements put in place to control management pay.

The Northern Ireland Assembly's public accounts committee published a highly critical report on managers' pay at the beginning of June which attacked the level of pay rises, benefits and redundancy payments. In response, health minister Bairbre de Brun agreed that pay awards had been 'unacceptable'.

Last week the committee agreed to accept the government's reply to its criticisms, and to accept that legal arrangements in place since April mean that trusts can now be directed on how much they pay senior managers.

The reply to the committee report, by the Department of Finance and Personnel, accepted most of the criticisms, spelt out that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety now 'has powers to direct trusts on matters such as pay and conditions of service'.

These powers were given to the department under the Health and Personal Social Services Act (Northern Ireland) 2001, which came into force at the beginning of April, before the committee reported.

It says that if departmental directions on future pay rises are not adhered to, 'appropriate sanctions will be applied'.

The Department of Finance says that a new pay and grading scheme, based on a formal evaluation of each post and developed in conjunction with the NHS Confederation, will 'be introduced in the current year'. It also says a full review of expenses claimed by chief executives will be carried out.

The original committee report brought criticism from managers who said information given to the committee had been incomplete and inaccurate. But HSJ was told that no formal complaint was ever received by the committee.