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New council chief starts job

PUBLISHED: 11:40 22 April 2008 | UPDATED: 20:12 05 July 2010

Suffolk's new chief executive started work yesterday, but concerns over the process used to appoint her show no signs of dying down.

Andrea Hill was not giving any interviews on the first day of her job leading Suffolk County Council, but has promised to speak to the media next week.

Suffolk's new chief executive started work yesterday, but concerns over the process used to appoint her show no signs of dying down.

Andrea Hill was not giving any interviews on the first day of her job leading Suffolk County Council, but has promised to speak to the media next week. Meanwhile, it has emerged that her redundancy payout will be more than £127,000 if she loses her job in the planned local government shake-up - on top of the £40,000 paid to the headhunters who recommended her massive pay rise.

As reported earlier this month, any redundancy payment for Ms Hill, 41, will be based on all her years in local government, not just her time at the council. Now it has emerged that the council's policy on redundancy is far more generous than the statutory minimum.

While statutory redundancy pay, which is based on a week's salary per year of service, defines a maximum week's pay as £330, the county council pays out according to an employee's actual pay, and also increases the payout by 50pc. It means Ms Hill would be heading for a payout of £127,000 if she gets made redundant next week, and more if the county council is dissolved in two years' time, as is likely.

A council spokesman said: “In the event of any redundancy, the chief executive would be entitled to the same senior officer terms and conditions as anyone else. This would be the case if the postholder was [previous chief executive] Mike More or Andrea Hill. The alternative - offering a fixed-term contract - would doubtless work out more expensive and redundancy rights would still accrue in the second year.”

Sue Thomas, Labour councillor for human resources, said: “This gold-plated redundancy package means that the county council could be handing over thousands of pounds that it is not required to.”

Notes released by the county council under the Freedom of Information Act also show that Odgers Ray Berndtson, the London-based recruitment company which advised that the salary ceiling be raised from £176,000 to £220,000, was to be paid £40,000. It means the cost of her first year's employment adds up to £260,000 even before advertising costs or the national insurance contributions the council will have to pay.

The council is relying on the shorthand notes, taken in two meetings in December between outgoing chief executive Mr More and human resources staff, to show that it did go through its own procedures laid down as part of a vacancy freeze, which include filling in an authorisation-to-recruit form.

But the notes, and the authorisation form which was filled in after the appointment was made, do not address what salary should be paid.

The district auditor is now investigating whether there was any breach of the rules.

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