4 Labour councillors agree salary for new Wirral Council Chief Executive at between £155,000 and £175,000
Employment and Appointments Panel (Chief Executive) Committee Room 3, Wallasey Town Hall, 24th November 2014 L to R Martin Denny (LGA), David Slatter (Penna PLC), Cllr Jeff Green (Conservative councillor), Cllr Lesley Rennie (Conservative councillor) and Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Lib Dem councillor)
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Video above is from the Employment and Appointments Panel (Chief Executive) public meeting held on the 24th November 2014 in Committee Room 3, Wallasey Town Hall, Seacombe . This write-up of the public meeting starts at 23:09 in the video above.
Wirral Council’s Employment and Appointments Panel (Chief Executive) met in Committee Room 3, Wallasey Town Hall, Seacombe on Monday afternoon at around 2.30pm. The councillors on the Employment and Appointments Panel (Chief Executive) which had previously been decided by the Employment and Appointments Committee on the 27th October 2014 are:
Cllr Phil Davies (Labour) Chair
Cllr Ann McLachlan (Labour)
Cllr George Davies (Labour)
Cllr Adrian Jones (Labour)
Cllr Jeff Green (Conservative)
Cllr Lesley Rennie (Conservative)
Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Lib Dem)
Continues from Labour councillors argue for increase in range of Wirral Council’s Chief Executives’ salary to between £155,000 and £175,000. This is continuing the write-up of a public meeting of the Employment and Appointments Panel (Chief Executive) held on the afternoon of 24th November 2014.
3. Appointment of Chief Executive, Head of Paid Service (including Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer)
There was a report and thirteen appendices for this item.
Cllr Adrian Jones said, “Yes Chair, I just want to make a number of comments on this and I do appreciate Jeff Green that you obviously want to make a big issue about this. I just want to understand and … , but the comments on the existing Chief Executive were way off the mark. He came here as a temp, he stayed a bit longer…. he now wants to retire and do whatever it is that retired chief executives do.
He oversaw transformation of what’s been described as a failed Council, I think it was still a failing Council in 2012 when he took over and he’s transformed that into a 1st class machine which is recognised elsewhere, simply by the National… as being a completely different and efficient Council from the failing one he inherited from you and from your predecessors including us Labour Parties.
Now I think that if we were to argue the price we aren’t going to get that again. That was a very lucky situation … but if Jeffrey [Green] was saying that he passed some moral indignation and objection to extremely high salaries.. then I would be the first to agree with him but this is the pond that we’re swimming in and we’ve got no other way to approach this other than to pay the going rate, if we want to get the best and it really doesn’t boil down to much other than that. I would have thought incidentally, it’s quite a good Conservative principle when you see it put like that.”
Cllr Jeff Green said that saving taxpayers’ money was his primary concern in principle.
Cllr Adrian Jones said he agreed with Cllr Jeff Green and then said something else to which Cllr Jeff Green responded.
Cllr Phil Davies asked if there were any other contributions and that he wished to move an amendment.
Cllr Phil Gilchrist said, “Still resting underneath the present Chief Executive there’s a whole raft and that’s another phrase as well, a series of strategic directors in post. Now they recruit and manage a slimmed down organisation and I’m not convinced everything’s beautiful in the garden and I’ve heard what Adrian [Jones] says and I haven’t got problems with the rest of it, but once the Administration attempts to bring in Superman in order to sort out the existing problems, but unfortunately you know we can’t even get anyone with errm Superman’s qualities.”
Cllr Phil Davies said, “or Superwoman!”
Cllr Phil Gilchrist continued “or Superwoman! … something with some kryptonite. Well probably Ghostbusters would be far…”
Cllr Adrian Jones interrupted, “Is that a proposition?”
Cllr Phil Davies said, “You’ve gone from Superman to Ghostbusters!”.
Cllr Phil Gilchrist said, “Well, all I thought was that the big lake of stuff under the Town Hall made everyone so bad-tempered in the film. I think it would be over the top to go with £155,000.”
Cllr Adrian Jones responded to the point.
The Chair (Cllr Phil Davies) said that Cllr Jeff Green have moved something but that he was going to move the following resolution:
“Given that we the 9th largest metropolitan authority in the country and given that the current salary of our Chief Executive I don’t believe is sufficiently competitive with the market as exists at the moment and given the external advice we’ve had from the Local Government Association and Penna, I’m going to recommend that the salary range for the Chief Executive be agreed between £155,000 and £175,000 an annum and I think as part of that, the second element of that should be that the final, the final salary for the Chief Executive would be within that range and be agreed by this Panel as part of the recruitment process.”
He continued, “Could I just make the other comments that you’re abs.. you know.”
Cllr Jeff Green said, “Were you going to say I was right?”
Cllr Phil Davies replied, “You are right that we do need to make substantial savings as a result of your government’s austerity policies and the Chief Executive, whoever we recruit, one of his or her principal tasks will be to make the £70 million that we need to make over the two years and a lot more than that as we’re told that we’re told that the austerity is only halfway through beyond that.
So, I believe that we can get the good, the best outcome we can if he or she would more than pay for their salary ideally and I think if again, if you look at the authorities in Merseyside and Cheshire, this is, this is comparable with the salaries that they’re charging and we’re talking about authorities run by both the Conservative and Labour parties in terms of Cheshire West and Cheshire East. ”
He moved that, Cllr Ann McLachlan seconded it.
The Chair sought legal advice because there was an amendment. The legal adviser said that they would have to vote on the amendment first.
Cllr Jeff Green said, “Could I just make a couple of points? First of all we are comparing all these across the scale across the North-West as far I’m concerned there aren’t all vacancies there. So we’re not really competing with people to fill those posts.
Number two, I you know wonder whether given we are talking about as I say a million pounds over five years if we go along with the proposal you make, wouldn’t it be better to actually test the market? So instead, you know, you as the Leader of the Council, would it be the administration determining what the leader mark to be, because the first thing to do is to test the market. Again you know get three quotes to test it, so will we be actually be better off actually testing to see if the sort of candidates we might want are available at £130,000 and only then if someone can provide evidence that those candidates aren’t available, would we then seek to look at that situation?
That’s the way you’d normally, I think you would normally do it as opposed to make a whole series of assumptions that there won’t be people ever at that level, the level stops here and therefore bump it to what I think is an astronomical figure and I just have to say one that I think the public will find it difficult to understand given some of the measures that you as an administration are currently taking.”
Cllr Phil Davies disagreed, “Well I would errm, I would disagree with that as a way forward for the two reasons. One is we’ve had, we’ve got our experts who know the, who know the market for chief executives and senior officers and their advice is that our current salary would not get a high quality candidate because we are literally at either at the bottom or at the very lowest quartile.
So you know, we’ve had our external advisers who’ve given us that information given the current state of the market and secondly what you’re suggesting Jeff [Green] would build in a delay in the process if we had to jump through that particular hoop and I believe the priority now is to recruit the very best candidate we can, as soon as we can, after the current Chief Executive departs.
So I think for those two reasons I wouldn’t be in agreement with that as a way forward. So I think we’ve got an amendment which I will move, it’s been seconded by Ann [McLachlan], can I see all those in favour?”
For (4): Cllr Phil Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan, Cllr George Davies, Cllr Adrian Jones
Against (3): Cllr Jeff Green, Cllr Lesley Rennie, Cllr Phil Gilchrist
The amendment (passed on a 4:3 vote) became the substantive motion.
The vote on the motion was:
For (4): Cllr Phil Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan, Cllr George Davies, Cllr Adrian Jones
Against (3): Cllr Jeff Green, Cllr Lesley Rennie, Cllr Phil Gilchrist
The Chair Cllr Phil Davies said that it would be a recommendation to a meeting of Council on the 8th December  and moved onto the job description and person specification.
Cllr Jeff Green asked how much extra the Chief Executive would get for being the Electoral Registration Officer on top of the £155,000 to £175,000 salary?
Chris Hyams said it was outlined in the appendices, appendix ten, she then changed this answer to appendix nine, page thirty-three.
Cllr Jeff Green asked what exactly was there? Chris Hyams said that the election fees are determined by which elections take place each year which are outlined in the appendix on page forty-three.
Cllr Jeff Green asked on top of that next year, with the assumption that they’re in post by May, there will be a further £12,605 on top of that and asked if it was one or if it got totalled up. So if it was Parliamentary you get £12,605, if it’s a local election as well you get £5,297.16. Would that be £17,800?
Chris Hyams replied that they are a combination of which elections there are. Cllr Jeff Green said that in May they’d get an extra £18k on top of £170,000 that they’d been talking about but normally as there are local elections the Chief Executive would get an additional minimum of £5,000 on top is that right?
Chris Hyams said that it was and that you could see from the appendices who actually sets that fee. Cllr Jeff Green said that he wasn’t saying that they were being particularly generous, just in terms of the overall package, it is £175,000 plus £12,000 plus £5,000.
Chris Hyams replied, “Yes it is.” and pointed out that the chief executive salaries provided were exclusive of Returning Officer fees.
Cllr Phil Davies said that in Cheshire West for example, their Chief Executive makes £180,000 plus they get this in addition. Chris Hyams confirmed this. Cllr Phil Davies asked if it was the same in every local authority to which Chris Hyams answered “yes”.
Cllr Jeff Green commented that it brought the remuneration to round about £200,000. Cllr Phil Davies said it was paid for by central government. Chris Hyams confirmed this.
Cllr Jeff Green asked if the £5,297.16 was paid for by central government? Chris Hyams confirmed this. Cllr Jeff Green said “Are we genuinely saying we can’t get anyone for less than £200,000?” and “I’ll tell you what, all that money I’ve paid to my trade union over the years, I wish they’d had this crowd in.”
The following recommendation was agreed:
(3) That the proposed process and timescales for appointment of a new Chief Executive (who shall also be appointed as the Head of Paid Service, Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer) as outlined in appendices two and eleven to the report, be approved.
Cllr Phil Davies moved the following:
(4) That this Panel recommends to Council at its meeting on 8th December 2014 that David Armstrong be appointed to the position of Acting Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service, with effect from 1 January 2015 until the newly appointed Chief Executive takes up the position and also David Armstrong becomes the Deputy Chief Executive from the 8th December to the 31st December 2014.
Cllr Jeff Green said, “I would be very supportive of that, I think David has done the job before so it’s good experience in those terms and I think as we know David is a first class officer that performs incredibly well in this role whatever he’s been asked to do so. What was the final bit?”
Cllr Phil Davies said, “Well, in case he needed err between the. Explain why we have to have a Deputy Chief Executive Chris?”
Chris Hyams replied, “OK”
Cllr Jeff Green asked if he got two salaries to which Chris Hyams replied “Not at all. The proposal around a recommendation from the 8th December is to ensure continuity. The Chief Executive leaves on the 31st December, that’s his last day, however he has outstanding leave. Should he not be in the Borough, there is a continuous Deputy that will be Acting Chief Executive from the 1st January. So there are differing management arrangements, it’s for continuity.”
Cllr Phil Gilchrist said, “I can’t think of anyone else, that’s what’s troubling me. I’m trying to think better than that. I am worried that there are enough problems in CYPD [Children and Young People’s Department] and Asset Management and everything else that needs tremendous amounts of attention. So I don’t know how safe it is to move David up to this position when there are all these little things that need tackling as well?”
The Chair, Cllr Phil Davies replied, “Well, look I mean errm, he’s got, he’s got sort of excellent err officers in asset management errm and I’m I’ve spoken obviously you will have expected me to have had a conversation with him … and he is confident that he’ll be able to play this role but still do his, still have the asset management working in good hands going forward. So I have had that conversation with him and he was confident that those arrangements would be put in place.”
Cllr Jeff Green said, “A reasonable plea to start … knowing the sort of person David is and I think this is kind of … Phil [Davies] as the new council, is to make sure that he doesn’t try to do too much.”
Cllr Phil Davies replied, “Absolutely.”
Cllr Jeff Green continued, “Because he’s the sort of guy that … going so you know just to help him focus”
Cllr Phil Davies replied, “Yeah.”
Cllr Jeff Green continued, “on the actual job.”
Cllr Phil Davies asked them to agree recommendation 4.
Cllr Phil Davies then moved recommendation 5:
” That this Panel recommends to Council at its meeting on 8 December 2014, the appointment of Surjit Tour as Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer and that Joe Blott is appointed as Deputy Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer, both effective from 1 January 2015 until the newly appointed Chief Executive takes up the position.”
This was agreed. There was no other business so the meeting closed. However a few weeks later in December 2014 the Wirral Green Party issued a press release on this which contained the line “How can Labour claim a commitment to fairness having just voting through an eye-watering 30% increase in the chief executive’s salary. Not only is this an insult to the council employees facing redundancy and reduced pay, it shows a leadership out of touch with reality and missing a glorious opportunity to set an example to others and rein in excessive pay in the public sector.”
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