£5,000 cost of the long-distance interim chief executive

ONE of Yorkshire's smallest district councils spent nearly £5,000 on flights and hotels over a four-month period to accommodate an interim boss who lived hundreds of miles away in Devon.

Richmondshire District Council spent more than 2,500 on hotel bills for interim chief executive Jack Neal during his brief tenure in charge of the council between April and August 2007.

The authority spent a further 2,300 on flights between Exeter and Leeds/Bradford airport over the same period for Mr Neal, who worked four days a week for the council but continued to live in the south-west of England throughout the period.

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Previous chief executive Harry Tabiner took early retirement in 2007 following a management restructure, and the council decided to appoint an interim chief while it waited to see if North Yorkshire's ongoing bid to become a unitary authority was successful.

Had the North Yorkshire plan gone through, Richmondshire would have been amalgamated into a new single authority governing the whole county.

The bid was turned down in July 2007, however, and the authority subsequently appointed a permanent chief executive, Peter Simpson, later in the year.

The total cost of Mr Neal's expenses was 4,800.

A spokeswoman for Richmondshire said: "These expenses were part of a package paid to an interim chief executive prior to Peter Simpson's appointment.

"The council took the decision to recruit an interim following the retirement of Harry Tabiner and pending the uncertainty over the potential unitary authority changes in North Yorkshire.

"The package was negotiated via a recruitment agency that specialised in this type of short term interim appointment.

"Mr Neal lived in Devon – hence he required his travel costs to be covered in addition to his salary."