4 Labour councillors agree salary for new Wirral Council Chief Executive at between £155,000 and £175,000

4 Labour councillors agree salary for new Wirral Council Chief Executive at between £155,000 and £175,000

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), Cllr Lesley Rennie (Conservative) and Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Lib Dem)
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), Cllr Lesley Rennie (Conservative) and Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Lib Dem)

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 [2014] 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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Labour councillors argue for increase in range of Wirral Council’s Chief Executives’ salary to between £155,000 and £175,000

Labour councillors argue for increase in range of Wirral Council’s Chief Executives’ salary to between £155,000 and £175,000

Labour councillors argue for increase in range of Wirral Council’s Chief Executives’ salary to 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), Cllr Lesley Rennie (Conservative) and Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Lib Dem)
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), Cllr Lesley Rennie (Conservative) and Cllr Phil Gilchrist (Lib Dem)

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 12:05 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 Cllr Jeff Green asks if Wirral Council are looking to spend £1,000,000 on their new Chief Executive (over 5 years)?. 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.

The Chair, Cllr Phil Davies invited Cllr Ann McLachlan to speak. She said, “I think it’s important to recognise where we are in the local government family and what we want to attract here. We want to attract the best in England, so we’ve got to be somewhere in the parameters of being able to say ‘Oh we’re pitching our salary at such an appropriate level, to get the best field of candidates that we possibly can to attract the best in the business’.

I think also it would be fair to say and I’m sure we’ll be doing this, we will be setting, you will Phil within because consultation with the new Chief Executive, you’ll be setting some parameters for them to look at, you know senior management savings across err you know the period of their, their tenure here at Wirral. So and part of the role will also be about saving money, so sometimes you have to invest to save in the longer term and I think also that it’s worth saying that we need to look at comparisons with the rest of the public sector.

It was reported last week that a primary headteacher within an academy was on a salary equivalent to £200,000. The first 150 secondary academies have got heads on over £150,000. You’re talking about a primary head managing a school of two hundred and fifty pupils max, probably about forty staff. There’s no comparison between managing you know a multi-million pound organisation like Wirral!

So I think for those reasons for me, I’ll be saying we need to get this salary in the right range for you know the kind of calibre of the people that we want to work with us.”

Cllr Phil Gilchrist referred to the salary grades. He asked about the salaries of people on the next tier down from Chief Executive and that if they attracted someone who was currently a strategic director in another authority, how much of a salary increase it would be?

Cllr Phil Davies (Chair) replied that they’d have to wait and see what level of candidate they got, but he hoped that they would be attracting not just deputies and strategic directors but actually serving chief executives elsewhere with an “excellent track record” so they could “hit the ground running”. Cllr Phil Gilchrist said he understood.

Cllr Jeff Green said that his parents had told him that “two wrongs don’t make a right”. The other point he wanted to make was that unless they’re going to ask a primary head to run the authority, and there might be one paid £200,000 somewhere around the country, that it wasn’t really a reason for making decisions on the chief executive’s salary. Then again he said, “a primary head might be just what is required!”

Cllr Green continued that his understanding was that a set of proposals were being worked on that were going to save £1.5 million by the current Chief Executive. He said that [Cllr] Ann [McLachlan] had promised that would be delivered in December in terms of Council unless she’d changed her mind and then he revealed “Those savings were already in the works are due to be published in December”. So in terms of some of the points that councillors had been making Cllr Green felt were “extraneous”. He asked them to focus on what would be required, he referred to a saving of £730,000 and referred to a number of issues about the current Chief Executive. He didn’t understand why they’d have to increase it [the Chief Executive’s salary] to £175,000.

Referring to other salaries for Chief Executives in the North West, he said that “to increase to that much seems to be excessive”. He referred to the documents prepared for full Council, how £1.5 million of senior management savings had been identified and how all those things had been delivered off a salary of £130,000. He proposed they seek a Chief Executive on the current salary range of the current Chief Executive of £130,000.

Cllr Phil Davies asked councillors to look at the salaries in appendix 4. He referred to Liverpool City Council’s Chief Executive being paid £197,500, Cheshire West’s £180,000, Cheshire East’s £187,000, Knowsley a “much smaller authority than Wirral” £160,000, St Helens £140,000 and Sefton £152,000. He said “even councils on our doorstep are paying a substantially higher salary than Wirral does.

I think my kind of comments or my reflection on the discussion is, we need to be able to attract the best, but also retain them as well, what we don’t want to do is get somebody here and then because Cheshire West are paying you know a much larger salary, they’ll disappear to Cheshire West in a few years time. So I think we need to just have that in our forefront of our minds as well.”

Cllr Ann McLachlan said, “Completely disingenuous [Cllr] Jeff [Green], because what I was doing was giving a comparison with the public sector that wasn’t a local government chief executive, just to demonstrate that out there the salaries in the public sector in general at that level, you know to get the expertise you want at that level are much more higher than Wirral.

I’m going to ask Chris [Hyams] if she would give us a little bit of background on that £131 or £130 or whatever it is Graham [Burgess]’s in, because how long, what was the previous Chief Executive on? Coz Graham [Burgess] came to us and took his pension, I think he took his pension, .. or has pension arrangements in place or didn’t need to be paid the on costs that we would have to pay.

Well previous chief executives, what kind of salary was he on and how long ago was that? I mean in a sense I think we need to get a bit of a reality check here and get in the real world about what the real costs of salaries at this level are.

So, errm, yeah, I think it’s you know, our salary range here is at the bottom of the tree really. So what’s the history of that and also you know it’s not that two wrongs don’t make a right, it’s not anything like that but what we’re trying to do is demonstrate that here in this Authority we want to get somebody who is going to you know help us in the obviously very clear difficult financial circumstances we’re in, with the financial challenges we’ve got going forward as well and in remodelling and changing this Council. You know, so errm, I’m absolutely of the view that we will have to pay the appropriate level. Thanks Chris.”

Chris Hyams, Head of HR responded by saying, “OK, thank you. The current Chief Executive is paid top of the salary range. As the Deputy Leader’s just intonated, it is in the public domain that he left his last council with a pension which is why we didn’t incur the on costs. So in terms of remuneration, there was an additional salary arrangement through his last job through gaining his pension.

Before that, the salary range that was in place for a previous Chief Executive had his spot salary within that range of £130,000. The range has not been reviewed for a number of years and certainly not reviewed as such or changed previously to this in the time that I’ve been here in the last five years.”

Continues at 4 Labour councillors agree salary for new Wirral Council Chief Executive at between £155,000 and £175,000.

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7 Wirral Council councillors, 1 appointment to be longlisted & an HR consultant from Penna PLC; what could possibly go wrong?

7 Wirral Council councillors, 1 appointment to be longlisted & an HR consultant from Penna PLC; what could possibly go wrong?

7 Wirral Council councillors, 1 appointment to be longlisted & an HR consultant from Penna PLC; what could possibly go wrong?

                                                 

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Employment and Appointments Panel (Head of Specialist Services) Wirral Council 10th December 2014 Chris Hyams explains the purpose of the meeting
Employment and Appointments Panel (Head of Specialist Services) Wirral Council 10th December 2014 Chris Hyams explains the purpose of the meeting

What I’m writing today is an insight into how Wirral Council rushes decisions, it doesn’t seem to follow proper decision-making processes, gets itself in a pickle and how it can bungle even something simple like deciding on a long list based on applications for a senior post at Wirral Council.

First you need to know a bit of background to this story. The current postholder with the title of Head of Specialist Services Emma Taylor (which is in the Families and Wellbeing Directorate) gave Wirral Council her three months notice two and half months ago and leaves at the end of this year. Due to her being one of the senior managers at Wirral Council it is politicians (not officers) that choose her replacement.

On 27th October 2014 the Employment and Appointments Committee (made up of Wirral Council councillors) met, decided on a panel to decide of 4 Labour councillors, 2 Conservative councillors and 1 Lib Dem councillor, the job description/person specification, terms of reference of the panel, to appoint Penna PLC as recruitment consultants (who get paid £15,000 for this recruitment) and also on the process and timescales.

The job was then advertised, applications were sought (which went to Penna PLC) and the closing date for applications was 5th December 2014. Below is a screenshot of the page on Penna’s website for it (currently here but as applications have closed this link may not work for long):

screenshot Lead Wirral website taken on 11th December 2014 Wirral Council Head of Specialist Services timetable
screenshot Lead Wirral website taken on 11th December 2014 Wirral Council Head of Specialist Services timetable

As you can see the closing date for applications for this post (which went to David Slatter of Penna PLC shown in the above video) is 5th December 2014.

On the 2nd December 2014 (before applications for the post had even closed), the agenda for the Employment and Appointments Panel (Head of Specialist Services) was published.

Items 3/4 on the original agenda stated:

“3. Exempt Information – Exclusion of Members of the Public

The public may be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information.

RECOMMENDATION – That in accordance with section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following items of business, on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined by the relevant paragraphs of Part 1 of Schedule 12A (as amended) to that Act. The public interest test has been applied and favours exclusion.

4. Appointment of Head of Specialist Services, Families and Wellbeing Department

To consider the applications for this post. ”

Interestingly between the agenda for this meeting being published and the version of the agenda we got handed out just before the public meeting started (late), agenda item 4 had been changed to add (Applications enclosed) (see below).

Employment and Appointments Panel (Head of Specialist Services) 10th December 2014 agenda
Employment and Appointments Panel (Head of Specialist Services) 10th December 2014 agenda

Now this is the weird aspect of this, the agenda published on 2nd December stated the public interest test had been applied (by a Wirral Council officer) stating no reason why the public were to be excluded, based on applications that were yet to be supplied by Penna until after the closing date of the 5th December.

Applications were circulated to those on the panel, I saw this with my own eyes being done in person on the evening before shortly before the Cabinet meeting on the 9th December 2014.

However a different bit of the Local Government Act 1972, s.100B (4) and (5) required the applications for item 4 to be circulated five clear days before the meeting (which obviously didn’t happen).

The law is quite clear that even for items where they are planning to exclude the press and public that this has to happen otherwise the item can’t be taken unless “by reason of special circumstances, which shall be specified in the minutes, the chairman of the meeting is of the opinion that the item should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency.” and I didn’t see that happen during the first three items.

The meeting itself started five minutes late as Cllr Tony Smith was late and was over by about half an hour later.

The other point I would like to raise is this? If the public and press were excluded, why was David Slatter of Penna PLC (who is neither a Wirral Council employee nor councillor) allowed to stay in the room? Shouldn’t he have left and why didn’t the Chair ask him to when we left?

However it often happens at Wirral Council meetings that the Chair assumes anyone sitting round the table the committee is sitting on is an employee or councillor. For example recently the Pensions Committee excluded the press and public from part of a meeting. We left, but their auditor from Grant Thornton stayed despite falling into the category of press/public just because they were sitting around the table, therefore it was assumed they could be there.

I’ve seen the same happen at many other Wirral Council public meetings too that go into private session. There are members of the public present but they stay and the meeting carries on despite them being excluded from the meeting. Maybe chairs don’t understand what exclusion of the public means?

Politicians (especially those chairing meetings) can’t have it both ways. If the committee agrees to exclude the public then public and press (not councillors and officers) have to all leave. Otherwise it makes a complete mockery of the law and brings Wirral Council’s decision-making into further disrepute!

Do chairs of public meetings at Wirral Council actually understand what they’re deciding? Are the legal advisers advising the committees aware of the laws about public meetings or do they (mainly) just only offer an opinion if asked for the sake of their careers and not “rocking the boat” with politicians who could get them suspended?

Or is the real answer that Wirral Council has outsourced even part of its HR function to the private sector so much that it couldn’t actually function without having the private sector present during private parts of public meetings when the private sector seemingly have no actual legal right to be there? Am I wrong to expect fairness in Wirral Council’s decision-making?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this and will be interested to read the minutes of yesterday’s meeting when they are published too.

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Cllr Jeff Green asks if Wirral Council are looking to spend £1,000,000 on their new Chief Executive (over 5 years)?

Cllr Jeff Green asks if Wirral Council are looking to spend £1,000,000 on their new Chief Executive (over 5 years)?

Cllr Jeff Green asks if Wirral Council are looking to spend £1,000,000 on their new Chief Executive (over 5 years)?

                                                    

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, Cllr Lesley Rennie and Cllr Phil Gilchrist
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, Cllr Lesley Rennie and Cllr Phil Gilchrist

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, Cllr Lesley Rennie and Cllr Phil Gilchrist

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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

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)
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)

1. Appointment of Chair

The meeting started with a Wirral Council officer from the Legal and Member Services section asking for nominations for Chair.

Cllr Adrian Jones (Labour) proposed Cllr Phil Davies (Labour) as Chair of the Employment and Appointments Panel (Chief Executive) meeting.
Cllr Ann McLachlan (Labour) seconded Cllr Phil Davies (Labour) as Chair of the Employment and Appointments Panel (Chief Executive) meeting.

The officer asked if there were any other nominations for Chair?

There were no other nominations for Chair so Cllr Phil Davies was appointed Chair for the meeting.

Cllr Phil Davies got up and moved to a different seat.

2. Members’ Code of Conduct – Declarations of Interest

The Chair asked if there were any declarations of interest? No councillors declared any interests.

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 Phil Davies asked Chris Hyams (Head of Human Resources and Organisational
Development) to take the Employment and Appointments Panel (Chief Executive) through the report and asked her to highlight the areas where they [the councillors] needed to make a decision.

She referred to the Employment and Appointments Committee meeting of the 27th October 2014 and said that the Employment and Appointments Panel was set up to appoint a Chief Executive. Chris Hyams said that the report recommends a review of the salary of the Chief Executive, the role of Returning Officer and Electoral Registration Officer, the requirements of the job and a proposed timetable for moving forward. The report also detailed interim management arrangements between the retirement of the current Chief Executive and the appointment of his replacement.

The Chair, Cllr Phil Davies referred to the recommendations on page 6 and he suggested taking each recommendation in turn and that he was happy to take questions and comments as they go on. That was agreed.

He introduced their two external advisers to the Employment and Appointments Panel (Chief Executive) who were Martin Denny from the Local Government Association and David Slatter of Penna PLC (who are paid £15,000 by Wirral Council to help with recruiting a Chief Executive).

The Chair said that the first item to discuss is salary for the new Chief Executive. The current salary range of the Chief Executive was £121,807 to £135,341. The comparative data for Chief Executive salaries and workforce size (FTE) for North West authorities was attached at Appendix 5 (2013 figures). The comparative salaries for officers that report to Chief Executives was attached at appendix 7. A comparison of the multiple between the average FTE earnings and the Chief Executive was attached at appendix 8.

The Chair started by asking the external advisers for their advice.

David Slatter of Penna PLC went first. He said that the current salary for the Chief Executive was in the lower quartile. The £155,000 to £175,000 range in his opinion would give the flexibility to make sure they got the quality of candidates and that whoever was appointed would stay.

The Chair said that that would be David’s recommendation. He asked Martin Denny from the Local Government Association next.

Martin Denny from the Local Government Association that their data was very similar [to Penna’s] and that it was important that they had a “range of characters to choose from and that they are retained as well”. He said that they needed the ability to recruit the best possible candidate and that’s what they needed to search for.

The Chair Cllr Phil Davies had said that that was the advice.

Cllr Jeff Green asked what the salary of the Prime Minister is?

As a point of information at this point, I will point out that the salary of the Prime Minister is £142,500 (April 2013 figures) [source: Parliament’s website].

Cllr Phil Davies replied with “I don’t know.”

Cllr Jeff Green said that his understanding was that it was around £140,000. He asked if they were suggesting if they get a new Chief Executive that they pay them more than the Prime Minister?

Cllr Phil Davies (Chair) said that that was what their external advisers were suggesting, yes.

Cllr Adrian Jones made some comments.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist asked about appendix 3. He referred to page 13 and asked are the proportions fixed automatically and would there be automatic increases in the Strategic Director’s salaries if the salary of the Chief Executive was increased?

Cllr Phil Davies (Chair) invited Chris Hyams to answer that question.

Chris Hyams explained that the percentages for strategic director’s salaries were shown as percentages of the current grade for the Chief Executive. She said the percentage was the current situation, however it could be altered and that the Employment and Appointment Panel (Chief Executive) had the authority to make a recommendation to Council to do so.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist to the Council’s policy to pay staff the living wage [at the time of writing £7.85/hour]. He asked for the pay differential between the lowest and highest paid member of staff?

Chris Hyams referred to an entry level of spinal column point 10, local government pay scales starting at point 5, the national pay award, but that at Wirral Council its lowest paid workers were paid more than the lowest paid workers at other councils as they pay the Living Wage.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist made a follow up comment, Chris Hyams replied referring to the ratio between the earnings of the Chief Executive and the lowest paid worker which the Council published as part of its pay policy [which was a requirement of the Localism Act 2011 c.20].

Cllr Jeff Green asked if the salary quoted included pension contributions?

Chris Hyams replied that each salary had on costs of just over 22% of each salary. The salary details shown were exclusive of on costs.

Cllr Jeff Green said that the suggested amount was £155,000 to £175,000. Taking a middle figure of £160,000 how much on top of that would Wirral Council be paying £190,000 to £200,000 once pension contributions were taken into account as Wirral Council didn’t pay the current Chief Executive’s pension?

Chris Hyams said that it was unusual not to pay an employee’s on costs. She emphasised that the data did not include on costs.

Cllr Jeff Green said that if they went with the recommended figures that it would be £200,000, which over five years would be a million pounds. He said they were looking at spending a million pounds for one person?

Continues at Labour councillors argue for increase in range of Wirral Council’s Chief Executives’ salary to between £155,000 and £175,000.

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