Appointment of new chief executive for Adur and Worthing Councils nearing final hurdle

Councillors will make a final decision on the appointment of a chief executive on Thursday (October 28).

Dr Catherine Howe
Dr Catherine Howe

Dr Catherine Howe will be considered for the position at Adur District Council’s full meeting this week.

She was one of the final three candidates put forward for the role by executive recruitment company SOLACE.

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Dr Howe gained the unanimous backing of the joint senior staff committee – which is made up of council leaders and councillors from both Adur and Worthing – earlier this month.

Their recommendation was brought to Worthing Borough Council’s last full meeting where members backed it save for the Liberal Democrat group – which abstained from the vote – as it has no representation on the senior staff committee.

During the meeting, council leader Dan Humpreys (Con, Offington) said that recruitment for a new chief executive had been a ‘long and exhaustive process’.

He said: “We [the committee] had the opportunity to interview the final three candidates and I’m delighted to say that we unanimously agreed to recommend the appointment of Dr Catherine Howe.”

Kevin Jenkins (Con, Gaisford) thanked Adur and Worthing Councils staff who took part in the recruitment process, saying ‘it was so important that their voice was heard’ and that they ‘have confidence’ in the appointment.

Rebecca Cooper (Lab, Marine), who seconded Dr Howe’s appointment, said that she ‘very much looks forward to working with her’ in what she thinks will be a ‘constructive partnership for Worthing’.

Mr Humphreys congratulated Dr Howe, although the decision is subject to final approval by Adur’s full council. 

How much will they be paid?

The new chief executive’s salary will be £134,000 per year plus returning officer fees and travel allowances.

This is around £9,000 more than her predecessor and the total cost to the council will be £176,860 after pension and National Insurance contributions.

This is at the lower end of a new salary scale of up to £155,000 which was approved by Adur and Worthing councillors in July.

At the time, Mr Humphreys said the increase would be ‘value for money for the people of Worthing’ and that Adur and Worthing’s chief executive was the ‘lowest paid anywhere in Sussex’.

But Hazel Thorpe (LDem, Tarring) said the increase was ‘unpalatable’, in light of what she called a ‘measly’ three per cent pay increase for NHS staff.

What does the chief executive do?

Councils must have a ‘head of paid services’ or a chief executive to oversee services and staff.

The Adur and Worthing Councils chief executive will act as the head of paid services and more than 750 staff. She will also be the returning officer and electoral registration officer.

A chief executive can also be called on to make ‘urgent decisions’ for the council.

This could take place if a decision cannot wait until a committee or council meeting and would not cost more than £100,000.

Any urgent decisions must be discussed with the council’s group leaders and the chair of the relevant committee.

Who is the new chief executive?

Dr Howe joined Adur and Worthing Councils as director for communities in June 2020.

She then became interim chief executive following the retirement of Alex Bailey, who had held the post for eight years.

Dr Howe was previously CEO at Public-i Group Ltd and has also worked in senior management for Capita and Cancer Research, where she led on digital strategies.

She developed one of the first elearning community sites ‘’ whilst at the London Business School.

Dr Howe is currently vice-chair of the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny and she regularly writes on a personal blog about topics such as resilience, social change, working in organisations, and climate change – something she calls ‘thinking in public’.

Dr Howe also has a PhD in philosophy from Sussex University, in Falmer.

A final decision on her appointment will be made at Adur District Council’s full council meeting on Thursday which can be watched via livestream here: