Under-fire Suffolk council chief hits back at critics

UNDER-fire council chief Andrea Hill has hit back at her critics in a newsletter distributed to staff and councillors at Endeavour House.

In the article, in the latest issue of the Inside SCC newsletter under the title 'Message from Andrea', she takes aim at national and regional newspaper reports about her – and attempts to answer some of the individual stories that have recently been published about her.

She hits out at a national newspaper that published a photograph of her Cambridgeshire home and also says she has been the object of threats.

She wrote: 'People who are successful at work should be held up as role models to help our young people in Suffolk aspire to success.

'But it seems that some would prefer to engage in the politics of envy – to such an extent that there are now websites calling for people to carry out acts of extreme violence against me and to follow me home. That's why it's so scary that a national newspaper has published photos of my home.

'Is that what we want for our public servants – it's certainly not what I expected in coming to Suffolk.'

Mrs Hill became chief executive of Suffolk County Council three years ago on a controversial salary of �218,000 – nearly �70,000 more than was paid to her predecessor Mike More.

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Despite coming under pressure in the media and from the Government, she has refused to cut her salary – although she has foregone two proposed salary increases.

And over recent weeks the pressure has mounted following revelations of spending on professional coaching, the cost of photography charged to the county council, and last week's revelation that the county had picked up the bill for three hotel stays in Suffolk because she was not able to drive home to Cambridgeshire.

In the newsletter she defends her salary, saying it is in line with Government guidelines – and that a recent report by economist Will Hutton said that jobs similar to local authority chief executives would command salaries twice as high in the private sector.

He also said that chief executives' salaries should not be capped and that authorities needed to pay good salaries to attract people of sufficient calibre to do the jobs.

Mrs Hill adds: 'The Government's own guidelines are that local government chief executives should not earn more than 20 times the lowest paid employee.

'I don't. I have also voluntarily – and quietly – given up my annual pay award and my performance increments for two years running (before the council decided to stop increments).

'I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do, not because of media pressure.'

She concludes by saying she plans to carry on working to transform the county council by improving the way services are delivered to people in Suffolk.

She said: 'That's what the New Strategic Direction is all about. I believe in it and I'm going to give it my energy, intellect and hard work. That's what I'm paid for.'