Salary of £125,000 a year for new Arun chief executive approved
During a special full council meeting on Wednesday (October 13), it was agreed that a chief executive is ‘essential’ but members agreed to bring pay increases in line with those of the council’s other staff.
Arun District Council leader Shaun Gunner (Con, Rustington East) requested that the meeting start later at 6pm, rather than at 5pm.
This was allowed so that more members could attend the meeting which was considered particularly important as it concerned the new chief executive’s pay packet.
It was agreed that a new full time chief executive will be appointed with the assistance of London-based recruiter Gatenby Sanderson.
It is predicted the process will take around six months and councillors agreed to release £30,000 for this.
Call to lower salary
There was disagreement over the future chief executive’s pay, with Tony Dixon (Ind, Aldwick East) asking for it to be lowered from up to £125,000 per year to £120,000.
He said: “This council is now a small council. I think we should set £120,000 as a salary which would put us in the lower quartile of the Sussex comparison table.
“Can we stop all the party politics please chairman? Let’s recruit a CEO.”
Mr Dixon also called for a longer notice period of six months, rather than three, for a future CEO, which would give the council more time to recruit.
But Mr Dixon’s amendment, which was labelled as a ‘gesture’ by Grant Roberts (Con, Arundel and Walberton) was voted down.
Mr Roberts said: “I see £5,000 as very much a gesture in the scheme of things.
“If we don’t pay the right money, they will be off and then we have to think about the cost of recruitment again.”
He pointed out that Adur and Worthing Councils are currently looking to appoint a chief executive on a salary of up to £155,000, saying: “I know which one I’d go to.”
Hugh Coster (Ind, Aldwick East) took issue with Mr Roberts’ labelling of £5,000 as a ‘gesture’, saying: “For some people, £5,000 represents a largish sum of money.”
Paul English (Con, Felpham East) said that a lower figure would not attract a ‘quality person’.
He said: “We’re arguing over semantics. We want the right person, so give the negotiations a chance, give the recruitment agency a chance to get the right person.”
Ricky Bower (Con, East Preston) said that a reduced number of staff at the council was ‘irrelevant’ to the chief executive’s pay, adding that ‘the number of services the council delivers remains the same’.
In future, Will Tilbrook (LDem, Rustington West) suggested that discussions on chief executive pay take place in exempt business (in private) so as not to hamper ‘the council’s negotiating position’.
Members’ seminar ruled out
The council ruled out a members’ seminar to discuss alternatives to a chief executive.
This was recommended by the chief executive’s remuneration committee on Monday (October 11).
Mr Gunner refused the suggestion which he said could ‘cost the council and residents a further £65,000′.
Matt Stanley (LDem, Marine) was strongly in favour of a seminar.
He said: “The idea of the seminar was supported by Lib Dems, Independents and also by Conservatives.
“We’re in a position where costs are tight. So it is important, when looking at an annual salary of £125,000 a year, that we explore all options.
“The council does not need a CEO, what it requires is a head of paid services and it came out that this isn’t an avenue that has been explored.
“I’m not sure why a seminar would incur £65,000 of costs.”
Council ‘needs a full time chief executive’
Grant Roberts said that a two month delay could cost £65,000 due to the £1,300 a day salary being paid to interim chief executive James Hassett.
Other councillors disagreed with the principle of having a head of paid services instead of a chief executive.
Paul Dendle (Con, Arundel and Walberton) compared not having a CEO to ‘shooting ourselves in the head and both feet at same time’.
David Edwards (Con, Felpham East) said: “This council needs a chief executive, it needs a full time chief executive.
“We’re not running this council on a wing and a prayer – chief executive salaries are what they are; we all know that, we don’t like it but that’s what it is.
“I don’t want to pay anyone that kind of money but we need to do that.”
Chief executive pay rises will be in line with rest of council staff
Councillors did agree however, that a future chief executive should not receive annual salary increases which are much higher than those of other staff.
They voted to bring CEO increases in line with the national pay award instead.
James Walsh (LDem, Beach) backed the move, saying: “Staff at this council have not had pay increases at various stages whereas a chief executive has got percentages on an already whopping salary.
“This is quite unfair to members who do the donkey work of the council.”
The meeting also heard that a relocation allowance of up to £8,000 would not be given to someone already living in the district and would only be used as a ‘sweetener’ if necessary.
It was announced today that James Hassett, former CEO at Somerset West and Taunton Council, will serve as interim chief executive from November 1.