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Suffolk fails to appoint new chief despite £32k recruitment campaign

PUBLISHED: 12:20 12 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:59 13 September 2017

Suffolk County Council has failed to appoint a new chief executive after none of the four candidates on the shortlist were felt to be good enough by the authority’s political leaders.

Now there will be no permanent head for the authority until next spring at the earliest – interim chief Sue Cook will be at the helm for an extended period, including during the crucial budget-setting period.

The council has so far spent £32,000 with headhunters to find a new top official to replace Deborah Cadman who has left this month to take over at the helm of the new West Midlands Combined Authority.

It is understood there were four candidates, all men, in the final shortlist who were interviewed for the role on Monday. Last week the council insisted there was a “very strong field” of candidates.

A five-strong appointments panel, three Conservative, one Labour and one Liberal Democrat, interviewed them and none were considered strong enough. It is understood that the decision not to appoint was not unanimous.

Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble, who was on the panel, said: “We’ve conducted a thorough search for a new chief executive, but on this occasion we’ve not found the candidate we’re looking for.”

He said that while the recruitment process had cost £32,000, the authority would be saving more than that by not having to pay a chief executive’s salary for as much as six months.

“We have a good team to run things now. We do need a new permanent chief, but it has to be the right person and if we have to go through the process again then so be it.”

Labour group leader Sandra Gage said: “After spending £32,000 to recruit, spending many staff days and weeks preparation, with an encouraging and wide range of applicants coming forward, it should now be asked just what those who voted against appointing a chief executive are going to do now?

“A second attempt in the coming months offers no guarantee of a different outcome, and leaves Suffolk County Council with months of having to ‘make do’ with the corporate management team filling the gap.

“This decision leaves Suffolk County Council in a vulnerable position.”

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