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Ad for diary secretary is withdrawn

PUBLISHED: 08:52 09 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:27 05 July 2010

A BID by Suffolk County Council's chief executive to expand her personal support staff has been aborted.

With families struggling to pay their bills in the deepening credit crunch crisis, Andrea Hill, who took over the post in April on the controversial salary of £218,592 - making her the second highest paid head of an English local authority - advertised yesterday for an employee whose main job would be to look after her day-to-day diary.

A BID by Suffolk County Council's chief executive to expand her personal support staff has been aborted.

With families struggling to pay their bills in the deepening credit crunch crisis, Andrea Hill, who took over the post in April on the controversial salary of £218,592 - making her the second highest paid head of an English local authority - advertised yesterday for an employee whose main job would be to look after her day-to-day diary.

The advert said the management of the chief executive's diary was “a newly created post” with a salary in the scale of £17,781-£19,463, plus the council's contribution to pension and insurance costs.

Mrs Hill already has a personal assistant and journalists at the East Anglian Daily Times, in Ipswich, checked with England's four largest shire county councils - Essex, Hampshire, Kent and Lancashire - and also Norfolk and Cambridgeshire to discover that none of these six chief executives has a diary secretary within their offices, the duties being undertaken by their personal assistants.

After being alerted to the position, council leader Jeremy Pembroke intervened and the Conservative-run council announced it would not proceed with the appointment.

In a statement justifying the change of mind, Sally Marlow, who is head of human resources at Suffolk County Council, said: “We are currently undergoing a review of business support, which we anticipate will allow us to meet the requirements of the post from existing resources. It has therefore been decided to withdraw the advertisement.”

Julian Swainson, leader of the Labour opposition group, said: “The bizarre thing is that the council changed its mind on an appointment because a journalist noticed a job vacancy advert.

“The salary isn't the issue - the council set out to recruit a new member of staff, and changed its mind within a few hours.

“If the Tories believed the new post was necessary, then they should have had the courage of their convictions and ignored the criticism. It shows the continuing chaos and confusion at the heart of this Tory administration.”

Mark Wallace, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said the chief executive's move to increase her own personal staff was “particularly shocking at a time when every family and every business are cutting back their overheads.”

Mr Pembroke defended the council's record on saving money.

“In the current economic climate we need to constantly review and monitor our recruitment practices and be prepared to make changes when they are justified,” he said.

“This administration has saved around £60m in the last three years and was hailed in a recent trade journal by John Healey, local government minister, as one of the top 10 councils for achieving the highest efficiency savings and is set to save a further £28m over the next three years.

“As part of this, a very ambitious efficiency savings programme called Securing the Future will deliver £18.5m by 2012. This year the strategic centre of the organisation alone, led by Andrea Hill, the chief executive, will deliver £1.2m of savings.”

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