Leader rejects chief executive axe suggestion
The leader of Crawley Borough Council has rejected any suggestion that the post of chief executive could be axed as a way of saving money.
In December, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles MP, published a list of 50 ways councils could save money – including cutting pay for senior staff and even axing the top role completely.
The list - 50 ways to save, examples of sensible savings in local government – also suggested that councils could improve their council tax collections rates and highlighted Crawley’s council as an example of how things should be done in that respect.
It said: “The best authorities collect 99.5 per cent council tax owed, but the worst collect less than 89.6 per cent. For example, in April, Crawley Council announced that they had increased their collection rates for the 10th year running.”
A council spokesman pointed out that many of the suggestions made by Mr Pickles were already in place at the town hall.
These included sharing back office services, tackling fraud, using reserves creatively, promoting direct debit payments, cutting spending on consultants, reducing absenteeism, earning more from private advertising, cutting printing costs and asking staff for savings ideas.
He added: “Crawley Borough Council manages and uses its money well. This is the view of the Audit Commission.
“The majority of these suggestions (applicable to a borough council) are already in place and have been for several years.”
But the suggestion that the role of chief executive be removed was not welcomed by council leader Cllr Bob Lanzer (Con, Pound Hill South and Worth), who stressed the importance of the non-political role currently held by Lee Harris.
He said: “Removing the chief executive post is not something that members have collectively discussed.
“It is not something that I personally support.
“I believe that we need a professional and non-political head of the organisation to provide the necessary managerial leadership, just as nationally we have the head of the Civil Service.
“This role cannot necessarily be filled by council leaders whose role is to provide political leadership.
“It should be remembered that all senior politicians can conceivably gain their positions without participating in any competency-based process that their officers, including the chief executive, will have gone through.
“This is one good reason why politicians receive allowances which are markedly lower than the salaries of professional officers at local and national level.
“It also exposes as preposterous another recent suggestion that no professional in the public sector should receive a greater salary than the Prime Minister of the day.”
To read the full list, log on to www.gov.uk/government
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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