Having had something of a hand in drafting the amendment, I am happy to contribute to the debate. The amendment is born of my 11 years as a councillor, for six of which I was the leader of a local authority. It occurred to me then—nothing that has happened since has dissuaded me of this—that giving key senior officials contracts is far better than employing someone in their 40s until they are 60 or 65. In my experience, it is much easier to negotiate another five-year contract with someone than to consider bringing in someone new if the incumbent is not up to the job.
I am in no way suggesting that the problem that we are addressing will go away in five years. If there is a need for a traffic manager, there is a need for a traffic manager. Such key officials are usefully put on five-year contracts, which focuses their minds wonderfully to do exactly whatever the job is. The Minister talked about finance directors. If I recall my days in local government rightly, our chief executives and finance
officers were on five-year contracts, which worked wonderfully. Our local authority set the pace in achieving change and delivering better value for money to our ratepayers, as they were in those days. The Minister misunderstands if he thinks that someone would be in the post for only five years. [Interruption.] The authority that the Minister is looking for is Wansdyke, which has since been abolished, although that was nothing much to do with my tenure.
There is a matter of principle behind the amendment, about whether we should dictate to local authorities how they go about their duties. I have always believed that fixed-term contracts, which are renewable until the age of 65, are a good tool for getting better performance out of people.