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.
“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?
“£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.
“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.”
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.