Suffolk County Council’s �27k ‘management coaching’ bill

THE county's �218,000 chief executive Andrea Hill has undergone 23 coaching sessions with a 'change' guru at a cost of more than �12,000 to the taxpayer.

The sessions, which have taken place since 2008, were with professional coach Sol Davidson who works with senior officers in the public and private sector.

A Freedom of Information request sent to the county council reveals that each of these sessions cost �525 plus VAT. That makes a total cost to council taxpayers of �12,075.

The Star has learnt that council leader Jeremy Pembroke has also met with Mr Davidson for 'leadership development', with each session lasting at least an hour.

It is not known how long the sessions with Andrea Hill lasted.

Today, a council spokesman defended the expenditure, claiming the sessions were in line with 'training normally provided to senior officers'.

On a web page dedicated to Mr Davidson he is described as a professional coach with 17 years' experience working with senior managers and their teams in both the public and private sectors, in the UK and Europe.

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It describes his personal philosophy as: 'I take the view that traditional thinking about the nature of power, authority, structure and control is proving to be less than optimal in the face of the challenges confronting today's leaders.

'My work is about helping those brave enough to step into leadership positions to reinterpret many of their experiences and in so doing liberate themselves and their organisations into much higher levels of performance and capability.'

He also lists as one of his skills, 'leading on 'the edge of chaos' and awareness of self on this edge'.

Opposition Liberal Democrat leader Kathy Pollard was not impressed to hear about the coaching.

She said: 'I do wonder why someone on such a high salary needs coaching in this way.

'At a time when all council spending is being squeezed money should go to front line services and not to this kind of coaching.'

North Ipswich and Central Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter added: 'At this time when Suffolk is facing major challenges issues like this do not help. The county should be looking at spending money on its front line services.'

This is not the first time that training has been an issue at the county council – in October 2008 it was revealed that the county had spent �400,000 on training courses for staff using programmes devised by TV hypnotist Paul McKenna.

Sally Marlow, Suffolk County Council's head of human resources, said: 'As the chief executive of Suffolk County Council, Andrea Hill is responsible for a programme of significant and complex change in the way public services are provided, and delivering �125m of savings over the next four years.

'In exactly the same way as all members of staff at this, and any other, organisation do, the chief executive receives personal development to support her in her role.

'Developing staff is an important aspect of running an organisation. The amount spent on this personal development has been over a three year period and is in line with training normally provided to senior officers.'

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