A new chief executive has been chosen to run Brighton and Hove City Council on a salary and pension of more than £200,000 a year.
Councillors will be asked to ratify the appointment next week after the selection of Jessica Gibbons, currently the chief operations officer at Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council.
She was one of three shortlisted candidates alongside a former council chief executive in London and the serving chief executive of another council.
Ms Gibbons is expected to take over from interim chief executive Will Tuckley, one of the country’s most experienced council bosses, in the new year.
Her appointment comes two years after she joined BCP from Wiltshire Council where she was director of communities and neighbourhoods for the previous two years.
Before that, Ms Gibbons had spent almost eight years at Camden Council, in London, rising from head of parks and open spaces to director of community services.
After a masters of science degree in agroforestry at Bangor University, Ms Gibbons worked for Bromley Council as head of countryside and community before a stint in the private sector.
She went on to work as regional director for grounds maintenance contractor Glendale Countryside and then as regional director for tree supplier Civic Trees followed by a spell in consultancy before joining Camden Council.
Brighton and Hove City Council advertised the chief executive’s job for a salary of £180,000 to £190,000 a year.
The previous chief executive Geoff Raw earned £180,000 plus a £34,000 pension contribution, taking his total earnings to £214,000, in 2021-22, and £168,000 plus a £34,000 pension contribution, taking his total earnings to £201,000, in 2022-23, according to the council’s statement of accounts.
The contrast is often drawn with the Prime Minister’s salary which is currently £80,000 plus his MP’s salary of £86,500, making £166,500 in total.
When the job was advertised, Green councillor Chloë Goldsmith, who speaks for her group on equalities and workers’ rights, said that the salary was far too high.
She said: “Greens don’t think the council needs a CEO. Disappointingly, the Labour leadership have missed an opportunity to explore different models, and instead opted for unnecessary expense and a corporate management model.”
The council said: “We’re delighted to announce today we’ll be recommending the appointment of Jess Gibbons as our new chief executive to a meeting of the full council next week.
“Jess has been chief operations officer at Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council since December 2021 and is likely to join us on Monday 18 March, subject to the appointment being agreed by councillors on Thursday 14 December.
“Jess is at present responsible for all operational services at BCP, including environment, infrastructure, regeneration, customer, arts and property, planning and destination and commercial operations.”
Council leader Bella Sankey said: “We’re absolutely delighted to recommend Jess for appointment at such a crucial time for the city.
“We had an exceptionally strong field of candidates but Jess’s energy, values, vision, breadth of experience and knowledge in so many areas set her apart.
“As our new permanent chief executive, Jess will be key in driving forward our four-year Council Plan to deliver high quality services and to continue developing a proud, healthy, fair and inclusive city where everyone can thrive.
“As council leader, I’m very much looking forward to working with Jess and I believe we have chosen the ideal chief executive for our council and city.”
The council added: “Jess currently lives in Wiltshire but will be moving to Brighton and Hove as soon as possible.”
Ms Gibbons said: “I’m thrilled and excited to be offered this extremely important role at one of the most vibrant and innovative cities in the country.
“Having worked at a senior level across the private, voluntary and local government sectors, the role and place are a natural progression and perfect fit for my values and skills.
“The council and local government in general are going through a critical period of change and I will be grasping this opportunity and helping pivot the organisation and place to make the most of our potential.”
“I’m looking forward to working with the political leadership and council staff to help make the city an even better place to be for its residents, businesses and visitors.
“Brighton and Hove is similar to Camden, where I grew as a local government officer, as it’s diverse, edgy and creative but as a coastal city it also faces similar challenges to Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.”
Interim chief executive Will Tuckley, who was recruited to replace Geoff Raw who left in May 2023, helped the council in the appointment process for the new permanent chief executive and is expected to serve until she joins in March.