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Council chief’s controversial £995-a-day contract ends

PUBLISHED: 15:40 13 October 2015 | UPDATED: 11:00 14 October 2015

View from the top of Havenbridge House.
Town Hall.

October 2015.

Picture: James Bass

View from the top of Havenbridge House. Town Hall. October 2015. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2015

Great Yarmouth Borough Council will this week consider whether to ask a neighbouring authority to share two of its senior management posts on a part-time basis, after council leader Cllr Graham Plant decided on October 7 to terminate the council’s contract with SOLACE which provides current chief executive Gordon Mitchell.

Gordon Mitchell's appoitnment to Great Yarmouth Borough Council caused controversy in 2014Gordon Mitchell's appoitnment to Great Yarmouth Borough Council caused controversy in 2014

Mr Mitchell’s appointment caused controversy in 2014 when it was revealed that he would be paid £995 per day, plus VAT - almost double the wage of the previous chief executive Jane Ratcliffe - amounting to a salary of £200,000 per year.

In comparison, at the time Norwich City Council’s chief was on no more than £129,699; Waveney District paid no more than £128,061; and Broadland District paid no more than £99,576.

The £200,000-a-year wage broke the council’s pay policy, which is not to pay its top officer more than £100,000.

Now, the request to fill these two posts on a temporary basis when the SOLACE contract ends on November 6 would allow Great Yarmouth Borough Council and North Norfolk District Council to test out a shared management approach, which has been discussed more generally.

North Norfolk Council's Sheila Oxtoby will become the part time interim chief executive of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, if a vote passes on Thursday at full council. Picture: James BassNorth Norfolk Council's Sheila Oxtoby will become the part time interim chief executive of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, if a vote passes on Thursday at full council. Picture: James Bass

Full council, which meets on Thursday, will discuss a report to request that North Norfolk District Council allows its chief executive Sheila Oxtoby and its section 151 officer, Karen Sly to work across both authorities on a part-time basis.

The council’s interim section 151 officer - sometimes referred to as chief financial officer - was responsible for the proper administration of affairs, and has recently left the authority.

Elected members from Great Yarmouth Borough Council and North Norfolk District Council are currently discussing the options for sharing senior management and some back office services.

It is proposed that once the interim arrangements are in place, the council can assess their effectiveness and consider the business case as to whether they should be permanent.

Graham Plant.  Picture: James BassGraham Plant. Picture: James Bass

Cllr Graham Plant said: “The contract with Gordon Mitchell was due to end in December anyway, and I thought that wasn’t a good date; it’s just before Christmas and lots of people are on holiday and away.

“The opportunity to work with North Norfolk District Council presented itself and its a chance to test the ground over a few months to find out what the benefits of this set up may be.”

“This is a good opportunity for our council to try out the arrangement on a temporary basis while elected members from both authorities discuss the options for shared services without committing either authority.”

Cllr Tom FitzPatrick, leader of North Norfolk District Council said: “Obviously we will need to await the outcome from Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s meeting on Thursday to see if a request is made to share the two senior management posts on an interim basis. If a formal request is made then we would be in a position to consider it.”

The recommendations will be voted on at full council on Thursday, October 15. If they do not pass, the process will begin to start looking for an alternative interim chief executive.

Full council, held at Great Yarmouth Town Hall, is open for the public to attend.

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