October 1 2014 Latest news:
Friday, July 25, 2014
The new interim chief executive of Great Yarmouth Borough Council is to be paid £200,000 a year.
Gordon Mitchell’s wage of £995 a day was last night described as “obscene” and “hard to justify” as councillors met to appoint a new Town Hall boss following the departure of Jane Ratcliffe, who has stepped down as she is seriously ill with cancer.
Mr Mitchell, whose appointment was recommended by cabinet, was described by leader Trevor Wainwright as an expert with specialist knowledge in transformation.
He has been brought in to guide the borough council as it looks to plug a £4.7m funding gap over the next four years - or, as Councillor Lee Sutton put it, to “wield the axe”.
Mr Sutton said: “I’m opposing the appointment not on the calibre of the candidate but on the terms of which the decision to appoint an interim chief was made. To pay £950 a day plus VAT, which I understand is £200,000 a year, would break the council’s pay policy. It is obscene. How can I justify this to people in my ward of low incomes, using food banks.”
Gordon Mitchell has been chief executive at four other authorities, including Nottingham City Council and Bracknell Forest Borough Council and comes to Yarmouth from Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust where he has been vice chair and senior independent director.
He wil be in post at Great Yarmouth Borough Council for 12 months and replaces Laura McGillivray, CEO for Norwich City Council who covered the chief executive’s duties part-time after permanent chief Jane Ratcliffe was forced to step down to due serious illness.
Mr Mitchell has also worked as chief executive for Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council in Halifax and also runs Starburst Consulting Ltd, his own company based in Nottingham.
In 2011, he spoke about the pressure on local councils to take up shared management - a sore point in Yarmouth after a shared leadership deal with Breckland and South Holland councils fell through when the Conservatives lost power in 2012.
The borough council’s pay policy, which is not legally binding, advises the council that top wages should be no more than eight times the lowest.
Mr Mitchell’s wage will be about 14 times that, said Mr Sutton.
In a recorded vote, four councillors opposed Mr Mitchell’s appointment, four abstained and 26 agreed.
His wage will be part-funded through the efficiency savings grant provided by coalition to help those councils facing significant central government cuts.
Graham Plant, leader of the Conservative group in Yarmouth, said: “It does leave a bad taste in the mouth, I don’t deny that. But there will be an even worse taste in our mouths if we can’t manage our own business.”
Trevor Wainwright and other senior councillors said the appointment of Mr Mitchell was “vital” to ensuring the borough council can balance its books.
See Friday’s Great Yarmouth Mercury for more on this story.