‘On leave’ council executive set to get £60,000 for home work

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A FORMER chief executive of a cash-starved Yorkshire council will be paid more than £60,000 throughout the next 12 months without having any dealings with the local authority’s staff.

Hambleton District Council announced yesterday that Peter Simpson was standing down as its top officer after he was placed on gardening leave in February following complaints over his “abusive and dominating” management style.

But in an unexpected twist, it has emerged Mr Simpson will remain an employee of the council for another year and receive a salary in the region of £62,000 – about half of his £125,000-a-year wage as chief executive.

The council’s leader, Coun Neville Huxtable, admitted he does not expect to have any further dealings with Mr Simpson, who will work from home and will not deal directly with any of the authority’s staff.

Coun Huxtable also confirmed Mr Simpson will not be working on any projects specifically linked to the Hambleton district, and will be in line for a further undisclosed payment when he takes early retirement in May next year.

While his salary will continue to be paid for by the council, Mr Simpson will be working on projects for the District Councils Network. The exact nature of his work for the network, which claims to provide “one voice” for 182 district councils, has not been disclosed.

Coun Huxtable said: “An agreement has been reached with Peter Simpson, and he will be undertaking projects of significance to the local government community. He will be managed in the work he is undertaking and will be liaising with the organisation that is giving him the work (the District Councils Network).”

A major restructuring of Hambleton District Council’s senior management was announced yesterday, with Mr Simpson’s role being taken on by Philip Morton, who was previously the deputy chief executive.

Mr Morton will be supported by five directors in the new structure, which has cast doubt on a pioneering shared services arrangement with the neighbouring Richmondshire District Council.

Mr Simpson had acted as a joint chief executive for both district authorities but the new arrangements will mean the new management team will focus solely on Hambleton.

Coun Huxtable was adamant there were no plans to end the shared services agreement with Richmondshire District Council, which has brought £2.6m in savings over a three-year period.

The councils have shared key services, including information technology provision, waste management, environmental health and procurement.

Hambleton District Council alone is expecting to have to cut its current annual £9.6m revenue budget by as much as £3m over the next four years amid the Government’s austerity drive.

Coun Huxtable stressed the new management structure is aimed at providing an “even better service for Hambleton’s residents”, although he confirmed the overhaul would mean additional costs of £8,000 a year.

Richmondshire District Council’s leader, Coun John Blackie, fears it could be “the beginning of the end” for the shared services.

He pledged that “every effort” would be made to continue working with Hambleton District Council, but confirmed informal discussions had already taken place with other local authorities about sharing services.

Coun Blackie said: “A unilateral decision has been taken by Hambleton District Council to introduce a management team for solely the Hambleton district, and we have had no consultations on this decision. We will have to look to how Richmondshire District Council will now operate in the future.”

The new management structure in Hambleton is due to go live on July 1. Richmondshire District Council’s deputy chief executive, Tony Clark, is overseeing the authority in the interim.