I am wholly in favour of top managers in the public services being properly paid, but 'Fair shares of the kitty' (cover feature, pages 24- 27, 25 June), in examining NHS pay levels, claimed that local authorities 'pay their chief executives as generously, if not more generously, than NHS chief executives'.

Not really. The National Joint Council for Local Authority Chief Executives, in its most recent settlement (1997), set benchmark salary levels for various kinds of local authorities. Assuming that a typical metropolitan or unitary authority - with a pounds 200m budget, 10,000 staff and a population of up to 300,000 - is the comparator that the chief executives of NHS acute trusts would want to use, the local authority benchmark is pounds 80,000.

According to publicly available material in the West Midlands, at least six trust chief executives receive more than pounds 100,000, but only one local authority chief executive does so.

The reference to chief executive accountability was also a little puzzling. It's a charming thought that in local government political leaders fall on their swords to cover the chief executive's failings but Local Government Chronicle will throw up few, if any, examples.

On the other hand, you will find several dozen examples of chief executives going when political control changes, even if it's only a new leader from the same controlling group.

And in the NHS, if the chief executive always takes the flak, what are chairs for?

Norman Perry

Chief executive

Solihull metropolitan borough council

Hon secretary

Society of Metropolitan Chief Executives