The council is paying almost £1,200 a day for its latest interim housing chief, it was revealed today (Thursday 9 July).
It means that tenants will be billed £156,000 for six months – as much as council chief executive Geoff Raw was paid in the most recent full financial year for which figures are available.
The details emerged after Conservative councillor Joe Miller asked a series of questions about the executive leadership team – the seven most senior officials in charge of Brighton and Hove City Council.
Councillor Miller said that Rachel Sharpe was the second interim executive director of neighbourhoods, communities and housing since Larissa Reed’s departure last summer.
Pinaki Ghoshal was the first interim, switching from his role as executive director of families, children and learning, until his recent move to a new job in Lewisham.
Now both substantive posts are vacant – as is the post of executive director of finance and resources since Dave Kuenssberg left for a job at the Home Office earlier this year.
Labour council leader Nancy Platts said that the council was paying Penna, an executive recruitment agency, £999 a day plus VAT plus expenses for the six-month contract.
Asked why the council had appointed an interim instead of recruiting a permanent housing chief, Councillor Platts mentioned the covid-19 coronavirus crisis.
She also said that Mr Raw was looking at the structure of the executive leadership team, which could mean reducing the number of chiefs from seven to six.
She said that she would send Councillor Miller further details in writing.
Councillor Miller, who speaks for the Conservatives on finance, said that the salary was indefensible and was another example of Labour mishandling taxpayers’ money.
He said: “There are many local people in Brighton and Hove on low incomes who are having to foot this bill.
“Labour’s mismanagement of staff will put a dent in the city’s budget and put services at risk.
“The council leader’s attempt to shift the blame to covid-19 doesn’t stack up. While she says it is too difficult to recruit a full-time person to the position, other councils have had no trouble recruiting throughout the period.
“There has been a notably high turnover of staff under the Labour administration and taxpayers are paying the price for Labour’s poor management.”
Councillor Mary Mears, who speaks for the Conservatives on housing, said that the £156,000 bill was excessive.
She said that the money could have been spent on the basic maintenance and repairs required by tenants and leaseholders.
Councillor Mears said: “£1,200 a day for six months could fix a lot of issues for tenants and leaseholders waiting for basic maintenance on their properties.
“The administration could have acted up a senior housing officer for six months to give them more experience while improving the service that tenants and leaseholders are asking for.”
The council’s 2018-19 accounts said that Mrs Reed was paid £111,000 for the year, compared with the £156,000 bill for her replacement’s temporary six-month stint.
Mr Ghoshal was paid £120,000 and Mr Raw received £156,000 for the full year.