Andrea Hill stayed at hotels in Suffolk at taxpayers expense because it would have been difficult to travel home to Cambridgeshire. The stories about the spending by the county council’s chief executive seem to be never-ending.
But this time there is a difference. We learn from the East Anglian Daily Times that political leaders had become concerned. They talked about it and Jeremy Pembroke, who yesterday resigned at leader of the council, talked to Ms Hill.
The bills were not large — £85 on two occasions to stay at Milsom’s Kesgrave Hall hotel and £120 for a night at the Brudenell in Aldeburgh.
Jane Storey who is to become interim leader, told the EADT:
She was not going over the top so far as I am aware, but we were very aware of the sensitivity of the situation and said this is not a good image….
To be fair to Andrea, I think she has changed some of the things that she does and puts in for. I feel she has changed some of her expenditure.
The Aldborough stay, for a dinner in the town, was an opportunity to meet people well into the evening, and Cllr Storey says she would have expected it to be agreed with Cllr Pembroke. The stays at Kesgrave Hall were followed by breakfast meetings.
In a telling comment, the Lib Dem leader, Kathy Pollard, says:
The former chief executive Mike More also lived in Cambridgeshire, but he bought a small home in Ipswich at his own expense where he stayed if he had an early or late meeting.
Sandy Martin, the Labour leader, told the paper:
Generally, I would say it is either up to the person, whoever it is, to go home or to stay at their own expense.
This all makes Ms Hill’s 1,850 word defence of herself in the new edition of Inside SCC (full text at wikisuffolk), the staff newsletter, more extraordinary. At the time of publication she must have been aware of Cllr Pembroke’s resignation and probably knew that the story about her hotel expenses was likely to break. (It came from a Freedom of Information request to the council.)
In her message to employees she sees the stories which have been appearing in newspapers as personal attacks based on envy. They are not. They are founded in her apparent lack of sensitivity; a carelessness with public money at a time when others are losing their jobs.
That spending on photographs, hotels, rather odd training and more is evidence to most of us that she does not have the qualities to justify her £218,000 a year salary.
Now we know that council politicians were aware of the sensitivity of her position and it had been pointed out to her.
Yet, in her Inside SCC defence she fails to see how taking two training trips to the US paid for by BT looks to others.
Has it clouded my judgement in relation to BT? No it hasn’t: I have just negotiated £4m of efficiencies and cost reductions in our contract charge this year.
Maybe it hasn’t but it is naive not to see how it appears. BT is in the CSD contract to make money (according to some reports it has been running rings around her and the county council). Someone who is negotiating with them on the price of the contract should see that taking free trips from BT is not going to look good?
The trips were to the US were in 2008 and perhaps she would not do the same again. Her spending on hotels to avoid the 120 mile round trip to her home has been reined-in.
Yet in her 1,850 words there is no sign of awareness of the image she has created of herself. And certainly no contrition.
A link to the East Anglian Daily Times story will be added after it appears on their website. Added above.