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Wiltshire Council decapitated

October 6, 2011 9:18 PM
By Trevor Carbin

The decision to do away with the council's Chief Executive was confirmed by the all-Conservative 'cabinet' today. Andrew Kerr, appointed two years ago to lead the new unitary authority on a salary of nearly £200,000 and after a recruitment process which itself cost £50,000, is to be dismissed on the grounds of redundancy.

The number of corporate directors will also be reduced from four to three and the incumbents will have to go through an elaborate ritual to decide which one goes.

Council leader Jane Scott claimed the action would save £400,000 per year. She also explained that a separate redundancy budget of £4million had been set aside. However the exact details of any pay-offs probably wouldn't be publicised immediately because of 'data protection'.

In a twenty-minute speech in which she attempted to justify the decision she said: "This is my proposal for a new model of leadership.... As the leader, I gave this proposal serious and extensive consideration and worked with the deputy leader to evolve the proposed senior management model."

In response to questions she confirmed that the surviving directors would not be getting salary increases to reflect their extra responsibilities.

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Here's a press release from the Liberal Democrats:

"In a staggering turnaround, the Conservative Cabinet have made the man they appointed just 18 month ago to lead Wiltshire Council redundant.

Leader of the Wiltshire Council Lib Dem Group Jon Hubbard was at Thursday's meeting, where he commented "This is a knee-jerk decision to a funding crisis. It's been taken by a broken administration, relying on a broken decision-making process, to fix their broken budget. This sudden and desperate change leaves me with real fears for the future of the Council.

"It's shocking to note that our neighbours on Bath and North East Somerset Council recently considered a similar proposal, but after months of deliberation involving all of their Councillors, and the commissioning of an independent study, rejected the proposal unanimously. The Conservative Leader in Wiltshire has taken this decision with virtually no involvement from elected members, no detailed study, no independent risk-assessment. Even as the process to remove the Chief Exec begins, only a few people in the Conservative Cabinet have seen the details, and know the truth about the costs.

"Wiltshire Liberal Democrats have warned that without independent risk assesments, no-one can see the damaging long-term effects. We're worried that the people of Wiltshire will be paying for this decision for years, as yet more money disappears into the black hole of Conservative maladministration.

"In today's meetings, we sought assurances that details of redundancy payments would be released; the Conservative Leader pledged herself to release the information at the earliest opportunity, if it were legally possible to do so. I am writing to the Office of the Information Commissioner, asking for clarification on the ability of the Council to reveal senior officer termination packages. The public must be informed, urgently, of how much they are paying for this desperate decision by a Conservative administration teetering on the brink of collapse."

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And here's Jane Scott's side of the story. In a message to staff she says:

"You will all be aware that cabinet met today to discuss the proposal for a radical senior management restructure which underlines our commitment to protecting vital services for our communities.

We considered feedback submitted during the consultation period, before agreeing the new model which deletes the post of chief executive and reduces the number of corporate directors from four to three making year-on-year savings of £500,000.

This decision is a reflection of the strong position that the council is in, and the strategic plan that it has, setting out how we will manage the challenges we face over the next few years. Our key priority is to continue to deliver front line services and minimise reducing resource in these services. The focus will be less on strategy and more on delivery. The decision is a commitment to deliver what is right for the people of Wiltshire.

The implementation of this decision and its implications for particular individuals will be considered separately by the Senior Officer's Employment Sub-Committee and the Officer Appointments Committee. As part of the agreed process the chief executive and corporate directors will have the option of applying for voluntary redundancy. Any recommendation concerning the dismissal of the chief executive on the grounds of redundancy is subject to confirmation by Council.

It is anticipated that the new leadership team will be in place in November.

Our decision today demonstrates that we will not avoid making tough decisions if we believe that they are right for our communities. We will now focus on delivering our business plan and what is needed for the people of Wiltshire.

We will always do what we believe is right for Wiltshire's communities and if it means being a radical local authority which leads the way then that is what we will be.

The cabinet also agreed to recommend the Council to agree that the service director human resources will be designated the head of paid service. Other necessary changes to the constitution will be considered by Council on 8 November."