Opposition parties criticise Labour over council chief’s departure

Posted On 18 Jun 2015 at 11:59 pm

The opposition parties have criticised the ruling Labour group over the departure of Penny Thompson from Brighton and Hove City Council.

Conservative and Green councillors took part in a 90-minute meeting behind closed doors today (Thursday 18 June) at which severance terms were agreed for the council chief executive.

The Tory leader Councillor Geoffrey Theobald said: “It seems strange that the new incoming Labour administration has decided so soon that they want a new chief executive.

Penny Thompson

Penny Thompson

“It is even more surprising given that Labour has given no indication of what they want to deliver over the next four years.

“Unlike ours, their election manifesto was very thin on both policy and detail.

“However, as a responsible opposition, we cannot allow the council to remain in limbo indefinitely and so we have not stood in Labour’s way.

“This episode has been very costly for local council taxpayers and so, for their sake, we sincerely hope that the administration can show a bit more competence over the coming months.”

The Green group called the move a clumsy and costly mistake that wasted “an obscene amount of public money”.

Green group convenor Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty said: “The leader of the council was not able to give us a stronger reason than a spat with the chief executive to end their employment.

“If there were problems between the chief exec and the new Labour administration then surely any leader worth their salt would resolve problems to avoid costly mistakes?

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald

“£269k was agreed by the Labour administration as a settlement with the outgoing chief executive.

“However, I’d be surprised if the final bill, including recruiting a new chief executive, will leave any change from half a million pounds.

“Like us, most people will be angry that such an obscene amount of money is being spent in this way.

“At today’s meeting Green councillors argued that, in the interests of transparency, this decision should have taken place in public.

“Decisions about public money and how it is spent, especially at this time of cuts, are of great importance.

“Half a million is equivalent to a year’s salaries for 30 teaching assistants or 20 social workers.

“I’m sure most people would agree with us that helping our city’s children and vulnerable adults would be a much better use of public money.

“While council officers have had their pay frozen and cover for posts that haven’t been filled, it seems to be one rule for council officers and another for the council leader.

“Further, there were no noted concerns with the chief executive’s performance yet she was told she should be removed.

“We think this is a dangerous precedent and doesn’t say very much about Labour Party values in action.

“The Labour leader talks about how his council will focus on ‘getting the basics right’ but this is getting one of the basics wrong, very wrong.

Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

“From the new Labour administration, we have seen flippant use of public money to reverse publicly funded transport initiatives and now to remove someone at an eye-watering cost to the taxpayer. “This suggests that the Labour administration is out of its depth and already showing signs that it doesn’t know how to control spending.

“It begs the question: can taxpayers in Brighton and Hove afford many more of their costly mistakes?”

Councillor Ollie Sykes, the Green group finance spokesman, said: “This is a jaw-droppingly bad and unnecessary decision.

“It results from poor judgment by this administration and it will cost the council hundreds of thousands of pounds – money it can’t afford to squander.

“Losing Penny Thompson is a major blow and finding a replacement CEO of the same calibre at the same salary will be virtually impossible.

“In its first four weeks, the new Labour administration has taken initiatives and made promises that will haemorrhage council tax payers’ money for zero tangible benefit at a time when services are under huge pressure.

“I’m genuinely concerned about management of the council under this administration.”

Councillor Alex Phillips, Green group deputy convenor, said: “This is not how someone should be treated when they have clearly and consistently met all of their targets.

“Penny Thompson is the first woman to run this authority. She has been a strong role model and it is a great shame that she is to go.”

  1. Adam Campbell Reply

    Ollie Sykes talking about squandered money? You could not make it up.

  2. Gerald Wiley Reply

    Of course Phelim forgets to mention all the bad decisions made by the greens over the previous 4 years…

    And of course, in these times of austerity, it does beggar the question why a city requires a CEO in the first place. I thought that previously the (yet to be trained as a leader in the US) Jason Kitcat was “leader” of the council?

    Perhaps we can get rid of the position entirely and save the city even more over the current term? It can’t take much effort and all I’ve seen from her are various tweets requiring residents to read her monthly epistle to the council employees.

    But good to see all the greens (note that none are now brave enough to call themselves ‘leader’) coming to support Penny as she disappears off with a golden handshake of over £250k.

    • HJarrs Reply

      Good to see you defending you Labour Party’s squandering of public money.

      • Gerald Wiley Reply

        Unlike, of course, your incompetent greens and their grandiose failed vanity schemes of the previous 4 years – remember OSR – remember the Vogue Gyratory improvements – remeber Edward Street – remember unenforceable 20 mph zones – remember the Solar panels on council blocks – remember Jason going on a training course in the US to become a leader?

        In fact, can you name one project the greens instigated and implemented that was actually an economic success?

        BTW – whatever happened to Ian Davey?

        In this case it was probably a necessity to get rid of a useless green crony by paying her off.

        You really have a very short memory – are you by any chance trying to re-write history again?

        • Arthur Petworth Reply

          Gerard Willy,the schemes you have mentioned were mostly funded by Grants from outside the council budget. At the least the Greens did things. Labour intend to do nothing but make empty promises, much like their Parlimentary counterparts. End youth Unemployment? Great but, er, how? So far not even a single suggestion. Maybe give CEO job to a young person on minimum wage? Well, one down….

        • Hjarrs Reply

          Poor old Wiley, on the back foot already. That Labour are so right wing locally that they could attract the likes of “free market” Wiley to vote for them is one thing. But the sheer incompetence demonstrated so far an waste of tax payers money is breathtaking.

          • Christopher Hawtree

            Yes, poor old Gerald Wiley seems stuck in his own private moanathon. It is difficult to imagine anybody, “I know, let’s have a party and ask Gerald along to make it go with a swing!”

            He sounds like the sort of bore who ends up in a lonelydom of his own making. “Oh, God, here comes Gerald, let’s cross the road.”

  3. Jim Hacker Reply

    Looks like ex CEO David Panter has run into trouble down under too. Not a happy period for him I am told.


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