Call to explore ‘all options’ before appointing new Arun council chief executive

During a meeting to discuss the pay packet for Arun District Council’s new chief executive, councillors agreed that they wanted to explore ‘all options’.

Arun Civic Centre
Arun Civic Centre

ADC’s chief executive’s remuneration committee voted against recommendations to appoint the new chief executive on a salary of £125,000, instead asking that ‘all options’ be explored during a seminar.

Committee chair Mike Clayden (Con, Angmering and Findon) abstained from the vote saying that the right chief executive would be ‘worth every penny’.

The committee also voted for the chief exec’s performance-related salary increases to be in line with the national pay award.

Jamie Bennett (LDem, Rustington West) said the decision was ‘absolutely the right thing’ because the chief executive receives increases ‘year on year when the staff do not’ which Tony Dixon (Ind, Aldwick East) called ‘unfair’.

Matt Stanley (LDem, Marine) questioned if the council needed a chief executive, saying: “It’s an extremely high salary and at a time when we’re looking at all of our costs, is this a cost we absolutely have to have?

“Do we need a chief executive at all? And do we need a full time chief executive?”

Mr Bennett agreed that ‘all options’ should be explored and said: “The public think this £125,000 salary is very high.”

Mr Dixon said the public are ‘fed up’ with ‘fat cat salaries’.

He added that the current notice period of three months for outgoing chief executive Nigel Lynn is ‘not enough’ and did not give the council enough time to appoint a replacement – something that has made an interim appointment necessary.

Council officers said a salary of up to £125,000 is ‘in line with the salary of the current chief executive’ and chief executives of other similarly sized local authorities in the vicinity.

They confirmed that relocation expenses of up to £8,000 were ‘not a given’ and would only be awarded if a chief executive relocated to within 20 miles of Arun.

Mr Clayden said it was ‘not within the remit of the committee’ to decide if a chief executive was necessary but, instead, Mr Bennett moved to recommend this to full council.

It is a legal requirement for local authorities to have a ‘head of paid services’ role but this does not necessarily have to be a chief executive.

Chair Mr Clayden asked if the roles are ‘the same thing’ but officers said they differ slightly – a chief executive would also perform the role of returning officer during elections, whereas a head of paid services would not, for example.

Mr Bennett said:  “Arun deserves the best person we can get but that doesn’t necessarily mean a chief executive.

“It is obviously the highest paid role in the district – and in this council – and there are so many different options of what could be done in terms of chief executive and head of paid services.

“In the current financial climate is it right to just pay the going rate for a chief executive?”

The committee also voted to note – but not to endorse – arrangements for an interim chief executive which were recommended by the council’s recruitment and selection panel last month.

This includes a salary of £1,300 per day, for up to six months.

Mr Stanley asked if there would be a limit to the number of times an interim chief executive could be called in during an ordinary week – a factor which would ultimately determine the cost to the council taxpayer.

Officers said they would ‘rather not discuss it’ during the committee meeting.

Instead, this will be discussed privately during a special meeting of the full council on Wednesday (October 13).

Mr Dixon said he was uneasy with the package for the interim position, saying: “We’re being asked to make a decision blind.”

He called recruitment agency fees of around £243 per day ‘absolutely whopping’ and asked if the interim chief executive’s contract could be terminated if they did not deliver or a permanent chief executive is appointed ahead of schedule.

Mr Bennett asked if senior officers, such as the director of place or head of services, could fill in once Nigel Lynn leaves – something they already do during a leave of absence.

“I think it would save the taxpayer a hell of a lot of money,” he said.

Mr Dixon said that, despite the cost, an interim chief executive would be more able to ‘critique’ the council from an outside perspective. 

Committee chair Mike Clayden agreed, adding that if senior staff filled in for the chief exec, deputies would have to be found in turn.

But Mr Stanley disagreed and said that the proposed pay packet for an interim chief executive was ‘quite a lot for a shakeup’.

Officers said the recruitment and selection panel discussed ‘all options’ including internal recruitment for an interim chief executive.

They added that if heads of services took over, they would have to be consulted in advance.