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Suffolk’s new chief exec moves on tiny pay rise

Deborah Cadman

Deborah Cadman

Deborah Cadman, Suffolk County Council’s new chief executive, will be paid £155,000 a year, a very modest rise on her current salary at the East of England Development Agency.

She will probably count herself fortunate to have made even a small increase as her job as chief executive of the agency disappears in March next year as it is closed down as part of the Government’s cuts.

Her pay including a bonus at the EEDA (annual report) for last finical year was £151,000 plus other benefits worth £3,000 a year. There will be no bonus nor automatic annual rises in the Suffolk job.

It is an appointment which sends a signal that SCC which avoided the costs of head hunters is determined to be very careful with salaries from now on. It will even have a national importance as a sign that the executive salaries arms race is over in local government.

She was chosen from a shortlist of four candidates by an appointments board headed by Mark Bee, the council leader, with two of his Conservative colleagues and the Lib Dem and Labour leaders, Kathy Pollard and Sandy Martin.

So it was surprising to read in the press releasethat:

Deborah will also be responsible for leading the redesign of the way the council works, protecting frontline services and keeping council tax down – all priorities for the Conservative administration at Endeavour House.

Why did they make this party political point when the opposition leaders would surely share these objectives? Deleting the word “Conservative” would have made the appointment appear fully consensual. That is, unless the appointment board was divided.

Ms Cadman’s salary is £63,592 less than that of the former chief executive Andrea Hill and will substantial reduce the differential between highest and lowest paid employees.

The announcement of Ms Cadman’s appointment lists her challenges as:

  • Reducing the cost of senior management at Suffolk County Council
  • Working in partnership with other councils, businesses, the third sector and local community groups
  • Reducing the number and cost of public buildings in Suffolk
  • Dealing with increasing demand for council services
  • Delivering Suffolk’s ambitious broadband programme
  • Continuing the council’s openness, transparency and listening agenda whilst finding local, practical, solutions to community issues.

Before joining EEDA she was chief executive of St Edmondsbury Borough Council for six years. He start date at Suffolk has yet to be agreed but there will no doubt be an arrangement which will allow her to become involved at the county council very quickly.

Update: I am pleased to learn, from Lib Dem Caroline Page, that the decision of the appointments board was unanimous.

Choosing new county chief exec from shortlist of four

Will the mystery candidate from a short-list of four emerge as the new chief executive of Suffolk County Council tomorrow (Wed, Oct 19)? Three of the candidates to be interviewed are publicly known (BBC) but one is not and is from outside the county.

Lucy Robinson, who has been the interim chief executive since the departure of andrea Hill, is the in-house candidate. Her substantive job is director of economy, skills and the environment.

Deborah Cadman is head of the East of England Development Agency which is to be closed early next year. She was previously chief executive of St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

Stephen Baker is chief executive of Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils who share a senior management team. He started working in local government in 1982 at Ipswich Borough Council.

The fourth candidate to be interviewed at Ipswich Town football ground tomorrow has not been revealed.

The appointments board’s decision may not be revealed immediately after its meeting at 6.30pm if the chosen person needs to inform his or her current employer first.

Mark Bee the council leader will chair the board along with two other Conservatives and the Lib Dem and Labour leaders, Kathy Pollard and Sandy Martin.

I feel sure they will be determined to reach a consensus decision to avoid the political issues which surrounded the appointment of Andrea Hill and her £218,000 a year salary.

We know the new chief executive will get about £160,000 a year. The whole appointment process has been conducted with careful eye on avoiding extravagance. No head hunters or consultants have been used.

Not only has this saved money but has sent a signal to the county staff that they are trusted to do the work themselves.

They whole process seems to have been designed to demonstrate that the council, under the new leadership of Mark Bee, has changed.

The new chief executive will mark a significant reduction in pay differentials. Andrea Hill was paid 18 times the national minimum wage. The new chief executive will earn 13 times more than someone on the minimum wage.

It does look as if Suffolk County Council has heeded the words of Will Hutton in his report on fair pay in the public sector earlier this year:

… some public sector executive pay has been rising for reasons no less opaque than in the private sector with little attendant rationale. There are anomalies and, before the current pay freeze , signs that in the more autonomous parts of the public sector the arms race effects in CEO private sector pay were being reproduced – albeit less markedly. And of course, at the taxpayer’s expense. The public has the right to know that pay is deserved, fair, under control and designed to drive improving public sector performance – and that there are no rewards for failure.

Brent libraries closed: a shocking failure

The speed with which Brent Council in North London moved to board up half its 12 libraries yesterday after it saw off a legal challenge by libraries campaigners is shocking.

There must have been another way. Here in Suffolk where financial cuts faced by the council are just as great, if not greater, we have won an assurance that all libraries will stay open.

The financial savings still have to be made but we (the council and supporters of libraries) are now, after a difficult start, working to find a way through. It is going to be a difficult and hard discussion and there are bound to be compromises by the council and community groups.

The Suffolk story began with badly handled consultation based on the threat that 29 libraries would close if they were not taken over by community groups. It looked like a pistol to the head implementation of “big society”.

The message across the county was clear. People wanted and valued their libraries. The campaign was tough and hard and contributed to the departure the council’s leader and its chief executive.

The way in which libraries will be run in future is yet to be decided but it will involve much greater community involvement. Pilot schemes for various libraries are being negotiated.

The great thing is that there is an assurance that no libraries will be closed.

Once a library has been closed, as they have been in Brent, it is very difficult to restore it. It is like closing half the roads and digging them up, a destruction of infrastructure.

Libraries in Suffolk are going to be in for a tough few years but they will remain open with the prospect of better funding when the economy recovers. We should also find more efficient and better ways of running them.

Suffolk is not the only authority finding ways to keep libraries open despite austerity. Brent is guilty of failing its people.

A local debate about the NHS

A balanced post at Ipswich Spy on the Health and Social Care Bill, at present being debated in the House of Lords, ends with this:

We criticised David Ellesmere’s Labour group for running a campaign against the Tories on the NHS. We now think we were wrong to do so, that he was absolutely right to push them on the NHS. Even the local Tories are confused about what is going on.

This contrition is sparked by piece written by another local blogger, Gavin Maclure, a Conservative.

I happen to agree with Maclure that doctors are not the right people to run the National Health Service. But I profoundly disagree with much of what he says about it.

Why, I wonder, is it “rabid Socialists” who say how wonderful are our nurses and doctors. He does have a dig at David Cameron (I think he is a Tory) for his support of the NHS too. He distains all who trust their medics.

He goes on to say: “Even Lenin would have found it difficult to dream up the NHS – it is a perfect Communist organisation where everyone is treated the same as if we were all the same.”

Well, Lenin had been dead for a quarter of a century when the NHS was formed. In Lennin’s time I don’t believe anyone it the world would have dreamed of such an organisation. If anyone dreamed up the NHS it was William Beveridge who was for a time a member of the Liberal party.

It fell to Nye Beavan, in the post-war Labour government, to bring in the NHS. He certainly saw it as a step on the road to socialism but his plans were constrained by the opposition of doctors.

Eventually he got their co-operation by allowing consultants to work for the NHS and continue their private work. “Stuffing their mouths with gold,” he called it.

In various ways governments of all hues have continued to appease doctors ever since. So I have great concerns about putting doctors in charge of the shop.

Maclure seems to have a visceral hatred of doctors and the health service. He complains about being told he could not see a doctor and been given an appointment with a nurse practitioner “whatever one of those is” who could not help him.

I have no reason to doubt his account but some of the best, most competent people I have come across in the health service have been nurse practitioners.

If Maclure’s behaviour reflects the intemperate way he writes about doctors, I am not in the least surprised that he has bad experiences.

The NHS is not perfect. There is waste of money. There are good doctors and nurses and bad doctors and nurses. But on the whole it is a lot better than health services in most countries and does not deserve the “permanent revolution” it has been subjected to by Labour and Conservative governments. That is a Marist term.

English counties and cities should be demanding devolution too

As a rhetorical flourish the unfavourable comparison of Scotland’s tax raising powers with those of an English parish council, is powerful. It is used by Simon Jenkins in his column in today’s Guardian on the increasing pressure for greater devolution for the Celtic countries.

Whether it really stands up examination I am not sure, but it certainly true that parish councils have more freedom in raising taxes than English, county, district and unitary councils.

The effective ban on English authorities increasing council tax is now to be extended for a second year. For reasons that have never been explained, parish and town councils are exempt from the ban.

While government ministers bang on about frozen council tax bills, many people in small towns and rural areas know that theirs have risen. The increases are small and people have generally accepted them.

Would people accept increases in county or district council taxes to protect services they value? To some extent, I think they would.

Here in Debenham we took over the public toilets from Mid Suffolk District Council a few years ago rather than let them be closed in an earlier round of cost-cutting.

This year it was suggested the toilets should close because of the likely need to use parish council money to preserve other services like the library and the youth club. The overwhelming response was to keep the toilets open. That did not mean that people were not prepared to dig into their pockets for the library or youth club.

I can think of reasons why we should not. Parish councils do not get any share of the business rate nor, in general, do smaller parishes around large villages and small towns, make similar contributions.

But in the end people can make decisions about there things. It is a value judgement.

So we have a situation where the top and second tiers of local government, elected by the people, are not trusted by central government. This is the same central government that has made localism a central part of its policy.

The proportion of local government spending raised by local taxation has declined alarmingly over the years, to the extend that county and district councils often look like mere agents of Whitehall. Follow the money and this is what you find.

Simon Jenkins in his column says: “There is a clear head of steam behind Salmond’s [Scotland’s First Minister] demands, which are spreading across the so-called Celtic fringe.”

Similar demands for greater local autonomy should also be spreading across England. At the moment our county councils look like vassals doing the really nasty bits of the government’s deficit reduction plan.

If Parish council’s can be trusted to set council tax, so should county and district councils.

Labour councillor opposes carbon saving scheme

Switching off street lights at midnight seems to me to be an entirely sensible idea, one that has been adopted by Suffolk County Council.

The switch off, with various safety and security exemptions, is now being introduced gradually.

It will save money (£500,000 a year), cut carbon and give us a better chance of seeing the stars again.

Naturally, some people are worried and there will be monitoring and consultation to ensure that the lights are kept on where they need to be.

This is one thing that you would not expect to become a political issue. But in Ipswich where party politics seem to often descend to the extremely petty, it has.

Labour Councillor Harvey Crane points out it is a Conservative County Council policy and then goes in for some populist rabble rousing:

I think that there will be more damage to cars, more accidents and perhaps more worryingly an increase in more serious crimes such as rapes, assaults and muggings. I think criminals will feel they can commit their acts of violence and they won’t be seen by either CCTV or by other people as the lights are out.

The policy was apparently supported by Labour. Crane thinks turning the lights off at midnight is ok in rural areas where we have all been asleep for hours by midnight.

There is a page on the county council website providing full details of the scheme including the dates when the lights will be dimmed or turned off in all the towns and villages. There are maps showing which lights will stay on fully, those to be dimmed and those to be switched off between midnight and 5.30am.

Beware Richard Desmond bearing health lottery tickets

If you read the Daily Express or the Daily Star you should have heard about the Health Lottery. You might also have seen the promotions for the first lottery draw show on Channel 5 which is to be presented by Melinda Messenger.

I only became aware of it when a Health Lottery stand appeared beside the check-out queue in my Co-op supermarket in Debenham.

These three media operations promoting it are a part of Richard Desmond’s media empire. He is also behind the Health Lottery through his company Northern and Shell.

As a BBC report says: “The company has not disclosed how much profit it eventually envisages to make from the Health Lottery.”

According to the BBC the Heath Lottery will make donations to good causes of 20.34p for each £1 lottery entry. The comparable figure for the National Lottery is 28p.

The scheme is administered by the People’s Health Trust which runs the lotteries for 51 local local promoters who will decide on the distribution of funds.

These promoters are all registered at the same address in Clerkenwell, London, and go by meaningless names such as HealthIntent, HealthSuccess, HealthStrength and HealthCommit for Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire respectively.

Established heath charities across the country are concerned about the impact of the Health Lottery.

I have emailed the East of England Co-op asking why it is supporting this project. I will post again when I have a reply.

In the meantime, I fear William King, Ipswich’s pioneer of the co-operative movement is already turning in his grave.

Update, Oct 11: East of England Co-op tell me that they do not control what goes into their shops and my request for the reasons for installation of these terminals has been forwarded to Manchester, co-op headquarters.