Months may pass before Suffolk council replaces former chief Andrea Hill

While Suffolk council leader Mark Bee has made it clear that whoever replaces outgoing chief executive Andrea Hill will earn considerably less, it could be months before she is replaced.

Mrs Hill, who was controversially paid more than the prime minister during her three years with Suffolk County Council, left her job with immediate effect on Monday.

She had been on extended leave since Easter following an anonymous whistle-blowing complaint. An independent inquiry was launched after David White, the council's head of legal services, was found hanged in Butley Woods, near Woodbridge, on April 4. Police are not treating his death as suspicious.

Yesterday, as Suffolk entered a new era, it was revealed that the authority will avoid using expensive recruitment agencies when it comes to appointing Mrs Hill's successor.

The former chief executive was controversially paid �218,592-a-year.

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Figures published by Incomes Data Services earlier this year showed that the average salary of county council chief executives across England was about �190,000 a year. At the time of the report the chief executive of Norfolk County Council, David White, was earning �263,000 a year.

New government rules mean that any council appointments at a greater salary than the prime minister – �142,000 a year – have to be approved by the Department of Communities and Local Government, a move which gives MPs more say on chief executive salaries.

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Prior to Mrs Hill's departure a number of Suffolk MPs had been critical of her wage.

Following her exit on Monday Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, Ipswich MP Ben Gummer and Waveney MP Peter Aldous all welcomed her departure.

Mr Aldous said: 'This issue has been running on for too long.

'I welcome the announcement because there's a new leader, a Waveney man, and this enables him to get on with the agenda and issues he wants to tackle.

'It's good that this business will no longer be hanging over him and we can all get on.'

Mr Gummer added that there had been major concerns about the way the politicians at the county council had regulated Mrs Hill but he was now confident Mr Bee, the former leader of Waveney District Council and still district councillor for Worlingham ward near Beccles, will find 'the right person'.

The official announcement that Mrs Hill was leaving the authority came on Monday afternoon, following a morning of speculation.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: 'Following a lengthy discussion last Friday, and negotiations between representatives of both parties over the weekend, the county council can now confirm that Mrs Hill will be leaving her post with immediate effect.

'There has been significant media attention attached to Mrs Hill, which has become a distraction, and both parties accept that with new political leadership of Suffolk County Council in place, it is better to allow the organisation to move forward with new managerial leadership.

'The county council would like to thank Mrs Hill for all she has done over the past three years and wish her well for her future.''

It is estimated that the outgoing chief has cost taxpayers more than �1 million - taking into consideration an annual salary of �218,592, pension and employer's National Insurance contributions during her three and a quarter years at the top and the �218,592 in compensation she will now receive.

Looking forward, the search for her full-time successor has not yet begun, but the selection is likely to take several months.

The council may appoint an interim chief executive in the meantime.

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