Business community reacts to departure of Brighton and Hove council chief

Posted On 22 Jun 2015 at 4:39 am

Members of the business community have been giving their reactions to the departure of Brighton and Hove City Council chief executive Penny Thompson.

Local development consultant Ed Allison-Wright said: “Elected members should be urged to limit any delay in the appointment of a new chief executive to drive forward the new administration’s objectives.

Penny Thompson

Penny Thompson

“Therefore such comments from leader of the council, Councillor Warren Morgan, to that effect were welcomed.

“While making the right appointment is important, there are too many issues hanging in the balance for us to stand still for a material period of time.

“As a city, we are awaiting key decisions relating to strategic sites, the prospective adoption of our City Plan and the completion of the local authority’s estate rationalisation programme.

“We are also at a crucial stage in government negotiations for the next chapter of Greater Brighton’s City Deal, in pursuit of our own form of ‘Northern Powerhouse style’ devolution, which is a process, not an event, requiring constant pressure from officers.

“While being a fickle game with a turnover as high as football managers at times, a chief executive works at the tip of the sword as far as the council is concerned, overseeing the transformation of elected members’ aspirations into corporate policy.

“Without one, it is difficult for us to effectively engage on the regional / national scene and for the council to set an example by having a strong direction, given that the rest of the executive team, like much of the council in a time of low resource, is overwhelmed.

“Let’s hope for a swift, smooth process, with selection input from the private sector, as was observed in 2012”

Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce president Carol Lewis said: “We’d like to thank Penny for all the work she has done over the last three years and for her support of Brighton Chamber.

“We hope that there is an appointment soon to ensure that there is not a vacuum at the head of the council.”

Brighton i360 chief executive Eleanor Harris said: “Penny was a great sounding board and very even-handed. She’s been a pleasure to work with.

“I’ve only had a positive experience of working with the council and I want that to continue.”

She praised the “fresh innovative thinking” such as the way the council brokered funding for the i360 from the Public Works Loan Board, adding: “It would be good to see that continue.

“And it was good to have a woman at the helm.”

Brighton businessman Andy Cheesman responded to the £270,000 severance package agreed with Ms Thompson.

He said: “I cannot believe how the council can find this sort of money when people with special needs, the vulnerable and the elderly are feeling the pinch.

“I find it hard to imagine how they can have fallen out so badly in just four weeks.”

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    it is curious to find that the GMB’s Mark Turner is acting as spokesman for the Council on all this.

    Not in the job description when Penny Thompson applied for the post – it was not then known – was that, come the start of 2013, there would be an urgent need to deal with the inequalities of allowances. A byzantine system had developed, especially with the illegal agreement in 2009 that GMB members would be paid for 3.5 unworked hours per week.

    Had this not been stopped (they now have to work these hours for the money), then everybody on the Council would be entitled to four years’ retrospective pay at their own hourly rate. the place would have been in an even deeper hole than Birmingham.

    As it is, those GMB members took close on a million pounds off local residents.

  2. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Of course Eleanor Harris sings her praises after the favour PT did the i360 mob. For the i360 alone, PT deserves the sack. Judging from the comments here it seems she was the one brokering the deal. A responsible CEO would have stopped it.

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