‘Rifts over cuts’ led to council boss exit

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The acrimonious departure of Barnsley Council’s chief executive was caused by rifts within the Labour party over cuts, opposition councillors have claimed.

The Barnsley Independent Group called for a full explanation after it emerged Phil Coppard had been paid three months salary to leave with immediate effect, despite him agreeing to work his notice period.

Mr Coppard, who will also receive pension contributions until March 2013, has said no explanation has been given for his exit.

Councillor Bill Gaunt, vice chair of the Barnsley Independent Group, said they were concerned that Mr Coppard was being paid “a considerable sum” not to work, and worried the council had no strategic lead at a time of unprecedented cuts to local government.

Coun Gaunt added that the reason behind the sudden exit could have been rifts within the Labour group over where the axe had fallen to make savings.

“There were problems within the Labour group because non statutory departments were being forced to take on cuts of up to 50 per cent, while the chief executive’s office was only cutting 25 per cent,” he said.

“That meant frontline services such as waste collections, dog bin collections, grass cutting, basic highways maintenance for pedestrians, were facing major problems while the bureaucracy was getting off relatively lightly.

“The Labour group knew that it would be very hard to tell the people of Barnsley that the services they rely on were being axed while bureaucratic departments were being protected.”

Labour leader Stephen Houghton said the council had already moved on from the saga and was now looking to recruit a new chief executive.

On Wednesday he said the council felt it had to act after Mr Coppard revealed that he would announce his retirement this year and leave in 2013.