Town hall chief set for £375,000 ‘golden handshake’

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A CASH-STARVED council is faced with a payout of up to £375,000 to its chief executive who has been placed on gardening leave after complaints were made over his “abusive and dominating” management style, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Hambleton District Council is involved in negotiations with its top civil servant, Peter Simpson, after he was placed on full paid leave from his £125,000-a-year job on Friday last week.

Mr Simpson is also the chief executive of the neighbouring Richmondshire District Council, although the decision to place him on leave was taken by the Hambleton authority which is his formal employer.

But the Yorkshire Post has seen an email sent out to Richmondshire councillors by their leader John Blackie which disclosed the bill for a “golden handshake” is expected to be in the region of £375,000.

Coun Blackie stressed Hambleton District Council’s leader Neville Huxtable has agreed it will be his authority that foots any pay-out, and Richmondshire’s taxpayers will not be left to pick up any part of the bill.

The email also reveals senior officers at the Hambleton authority lodged formal complaints over Mr Simpson’s managerial style which they claimed had been “contemptuous, dominating, dismissive and abusive”.

Coun Blackie yesterday declined to comment on the content and stated it was a private message sent out at the request of his fellow members. But he maintained his authority is “fully committed” to continuing its close links with Hambleton. The two councils have been at the forefront of a national drive for local authorities to share services to cut costs amid the Government’s austerity drive, and the move has already led to £2.5m in savings in the past three years.

Hambleton District Council is expecting to have to cut its current annual £9.6m revenue budget by as much as £3m over the next four years.

Coun Blackie said: “I want to re-iterate the absolute the continuance of shared services between both councils. Recent events have not shaken our conviction that shared services is the only way forward.”

Hambleton District Council’s deputy leader, Coun Ron Kirk, stressed “significant savings” had already been made through a management review and said efforts would be made to recoup any money paid out through further savings.

Coun Kirk added: “Negotiations (with Mr Simpson) are only just commencing, and no specific figures have been discussed.”

Mr Simpson has worked at the Hambleton authority for the last 15 years, and became the joint chief executive in 2008. The Hambleton authority’s deputy chief executive, Phil Morton, has been appointed acting chief executive. His Richmondshire counterpart, Tony Clark, has also temporarily taken on Mr Simpson’s role until May.