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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.

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