New £176,000 a year Derbyshire County Council boss role slammed as ‘obscene’

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The permanent reintroduction of a “chief executive” role at Derbyshire County Council with a salary of up to £176,000 has been called “obscene” and “ridiculous”.

Four years ago, the incoming Conservative administration at the county council scrapped the authority’s chief executive role, along with several other leadership positions in a bid to save £300,000 a year.

It was later revealed that Ian Stephenson, the outgoing chief executive whose role was scrapped, making him redundant, had received a total payout package of nearly £125,000 – with leadership denying this was a “golden handshake”.

Mr Stephenson had been on a salary of £138,000 a year.

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Councillor Barry Lewis, leader of Derbyshire County Council, said the move was essential to enable Derbyshire to 'thrive and compete'.Councillor Barry Lewis, leader of Derbyshire County Council, said the move was essential to enable Derbyshire to 'thrive and compete'.
Councillor Barry Lewis, leader of Derbyshire County Council, said the move was essential to enable Derbyshire to 'thrive and compete'.

Now the authority, under the same Conservative leadership in a historic second consecutive administration, is reintroducing the role of a officer in charge of running the council – this time calling it managing director.

The officer will have an annual salary of between £161,000 and £176,000 – not including other costs such as expenses and pension contributions.

This is up to £38,000 more than the previous chief executive role and the duties appear to be broadly the same – that of setting the strategic direction of the authority, along with accountability for the council’s actions.

The authority says the role’s salary matches that of other comparable positions and that the job will be advertised internally and externally.

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It also says it is to spend around £83,000 to pay a private firm, Korn Ferry Hay Group, to review the levels it pays senior management.

The lowest salary within the county council is £17,840 a year – £9.25 an hour for roles such as school caretakers and cleaners. The new role will be nearly ten times that salary.

The permanent managing director role will be a further step up from the temporary role currently held by Emma Alexander, with a salary of between £150,000 and £165,000.

Cllr Joan Dixon, leader of the council’s Labour Group, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “A chief executive by any other name is a chief executive. When they (the Conservatives) came into power last time they got rid of a few people and had a new head of service.

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“It is now so clear that the council lacked the strategic leadership it needed in the past four years.

“The Conservatives are looking to avoid eating humble pie by bringing back the chief executive role with a new name.

“It’s another £30,000 (for the new role compared with the previous chief executive role) when our lowest salary jobs are on minimum wage, our catering staff at schools are on minimal wage and are only paid during the school year.

“At a time when we are making redundancies we are to give someone £176,000.

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“What we are seeing is a lot of people at the back end squeezed and a few senior management getting bigger and bigger pay rises.

“No one person should have that obscene amount of money when a lot of people in Derbyshire will be losing £20 a week (in Universal Credit), £1,000 a year.

“I am really disappointed about it. It is a ridiculously huge amount of money when a lot of our staff are on minimum wage. This is not the way we should be working in Derbyshire.”

Cllr Ed Fordham, the county council’s Liberal Democrat Group leader, told the LDRS: “As leader of the Liberal Democrats, I am deeply disappointed that this salary and proposal has been handled in such a high-handed way with no consultation with councillors.

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“The Conservative leader seems to have forgotten that the composition of the council has four political parties represented on it – and is he saying that the collective leadership of the four directors has failed, that his previous decisions were wrong?

“Perhaps now he is recruiting for a head of a new all powerful unitary council? As Liberal Democrats we believe that this has been handled badly, is poorly timed and should not proceed at this stage.

“Unless the Leader can address these concerns the Liberal Democrats will be voting against the proposal and its salary level.

“At a time when Universal Credit is being cut by £20 for poorer families the county council has got this wrong and should think again.”

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Councillor Barry Lewis, leader of Derbyshire County Council, said the move was essential to enable Derbyshire to “thrive and compete”, saying: “The changing world of local government – which includes leading the post-pandemic economic and social recovery, the integration of health and social care, driving forward Vision Derbyshire to develop a collaborative working model across all local authorities, and harnessing the opportunities that a devolution deal for Derbyshire presents – means we have to adapt and respond at every level across the organisation.

“And in order to be at the front of the queue for the opportunities that the changing relationship between local and national government are bringing, Derbyshire now needs a strategic lead officer to give it profile and impact at a national level.

“Our collective leadership model, with four equal executive directors, was absolutely right for the challenges of 2017 when it was introduced and continues to deliver benefits in terms of collaborative and transparent decision-making.

“Our approach in 2017 did away with the inefficiencies we inherited and we continue to take a streamlined approach to management at the council.

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“So much has changed in the world since 2017 which means the council now requires a permanent managing director working closely with the council’s cabinet and executive directors, to ensure that the council delivers its ambitious plans including those in our manifesto.

“This approach demonstrates our responsiveness as a council, our ability to change and adapt to a new landscape and our determination to do what is right for Derbyshire people, our partner organisations and our communities.”