At a special full council meeting held last night (Wednesday 13 October), James Hassett was appointed to take the top job on a temporary basis, succeeding Nigel Lynn who is taking up an appointment at West Berkshire Council.
All but two councillors at the meeting voted in favour of his appointment.
Mr Hassett, former CEO at Somerset West and Taunton Council, is described as having a strong track record in local government having also previously worked for Havant Borough Council and East Hampshire District Council amongst others.
Shaun Gunner, leader of Arun District Council, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for Arun. I’m delighted to welcome James as our new chief executive officer who will be working with officers and councillors to ensure that we deliver on the priorities of the residents and businesses of the district.
“James will be looking to see how the council can be more sustainable in its finances, how staff can be enabled to innovate, and how we can work together to deliver regeneration in Bognor Regis and Littlehampton. I’m keen to get cracking, and I’m sure James is too.”
James Walsh, Leader of the Lib Dem opposition, said: “We are delighted to have appointed James Hassett for this interim role. He will bring a wealth of experience and expertise in areas that we, as a council, will benefit from.
“Ensuring that we continue to improve our services to residents remains our priority and I’m positive that in his time as CEO with us, James will help us to drive that priority forward.”
Mr Hassett, who will start on 1 November, said: “I’m really pleased to have been appointed as interim chief executive at Arun District Council.
“Already from my brief time in and around the district I’m excited to see how much potential it has to offer. In my time at the council, I will be focused on supporting councillors and staff to really engage with our residents and partners.”
During his time at Somerset West and Taunton Council, Mr Hassett developed a five-year financial plan with an emphasis on regeneration and supporting the local economy, the building of social and affordable housing, meeting the climate challenge and a strong focus on ‘levelling up’ for deprived communities.
With a background primarily in economic development and regeneration in both the public and private sectors, he has led on many initiatives including the regeneration of Hayling Island waterfront as well as the redevelopment of town centres in Havant annd Waterlooville.
After last week’s meeting, Amanda Worne (LDem, Yapton) described how she was the only councillor to vote against the decision to recruit an interim CEO.
She felt it was ‘absolutely shocking and wrong’ that a person working for the council on a temporary basis would be paid such a ‘massive sum of money’.
She added: “I felt it totally unfair on the people of Arun who will be paying in some way or other for this decision.
“We have some of the most deprived areas in the country in our district and to pay someone to come and do a job for this sort of money just for six months is frankly obscene.
“We have people living on the streets and families struggling to put food on the table and people who will struggle to heat their homes this winter as energy prices rise.
“We need to be investing tax payers money in the people who need it most and the vulnerable that live in our area, and I believe that the priorities at Arun District Council are all wrong.
“The only thing to do now is to hope that this interim CEO can come to ADC and give it the massive shake up it needs and make a real positive difference to the council and therefore the residents of the district.”
Originally it was agreed to pay an interim CEO £1,300 a day, with the cost to the council rising to £1,543 per day when agency costs were taken into account.
But an Arun spokesman has confirmed the figure has been lowered to £1,341 a day including the agency fee.