Any financial settlement between council and departing boss kept secret

Nathan Elvery left West Sussex County Council last month after more than three years as its chief executive
Nathan Elvery left West Sussex County Council last month after more than three years as its chief executive

Opposition party leaders this week criticised a decision that details of any financial settlement between West Sussex County Council and its departing chief executive were being kept secret.

Nathan Elvery, who was paid £190,000 a year, has been ‘away from duties’ since late September with no reasons given publicly.

Since then, the county council’s leader, Louise Goldsmith, has resigned, just a day after a damning report into children’s services was leaked.

Paul Marshall was later chosen as her successor.

Last week, the authority finally confirmed that Mr Elvery had left ‘by mutual consent’. When pressed, the authority confirmed he was paid his full salary up until November 25. However, no other details were forthcoming and elected members have been informed they will only be told the details if they formally confirm they will not share them with the media or residents – who fund the organisation through council tax.

A spokesman said: “The chief executive Nathan Elvery has now left West Sussex County Council by mutual consent. Lee Harris continues in his role as acting chief executive.

“We are not able to say anything further as it is confidential.”

This newspaper pushed for the council to both explain why Mr Elvery has left and reveal the terms of any financial settlement, if reached, between the two parties.

The county council said it was confidential and would not comment any further.

Remuneration for top executives has to be published in the council’s annual accounts.

But those for 2019/20 would not have to be made available until late 2020.

In a farewell message to staff, Mr Elvery said both he and Mr Marshall ‘believe a fresh start for the organisation is the right decision’.

He described being confident the new political leadership ‘will create the right environment for West Sussex County Council to truly become the organisation I know it is capable of becoming’.

He added: “The next leg of your journey will be a challenging one, but one I know you will be more than capable of responding to.

“I will be observing with interest your future successes, awards and continued national recognition – which will undoubtedly come.

“It has been an absolute honour and privilege to have worked alongside you all, each and every one of you are a credit to WSCC.

“I know you are passionate about what you do each and everyday and the difference you really want to make.”

The secrecy surrounding Mr Elvery’s departure was criticised by the council’s opposition parties.

James Walsh, leader of the Lib Dem group, said there were ‘many questions still to be asked and answered over this news’, adding: “The taxpayer will wish to know what if any payment has been made to the former chief executive officer and/or pension enhancement, especially after his £47,500 payment for a relocation which did not in fact take place.”

Michael Jones, leader of the Labour group, said it ‘still remains a mystery why the chief executive disappeared so abruptly’.