New era for Suffolk following Andrea Hill’s exit

Suffolk County Council is today preparing for a new era following the departure of controversial chief executive Andrea Hill.

Mrs Hill, who had been on extended leave since Easter following an anonymous whistle-blowing complaint, left the job she held since 2008 after a weekend of negotiations.

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.

Law firm Wragge and Co was called in after senior officials received an anonymous letter in the wake of Mr White's death.

The allegations are believed to include claims about 47-year-old Mrs Hill's 'domineering management style'.

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Although the committee found some allegations did not warrant further investigation, the inquiry was extended to include issues surrounding expenses claims submitted by Mrs Hill.

In a statement yesterday, 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.''

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Mrs Hill will be paid compensation totalling �218,592, a spokesman said.

The council's statement added: 'Bullying and harassment allegations were robustly investigated by an independent firm of solicitors.

'Although it remains a concern that such a perception existed, the committee is satisfied that there was no evidence to support those claims or that she was responsible for the death of David White. The committee wants to reassure staff that all allegations are treated extremely seriously. The committee also received a report into Mrs Hill's expense claims during her tenure as chief executive.

'It has concluded that whilst there were undoubtedly claims which, in the current climate, might not represent best use of public money, the committee accepted that there was no dishonesty in the claims made. 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.''

There have been a number of disclosures about her alleged extravagant spending, including a �1,800 hotel bill during the last financial year and �12,000 spent on a management guru.

Mrs Hill, a mother of three, has been a controversial figure since her appointment in 2008 after it emerged she would be paid a salary of �218,000. She had ignored demands from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles for council chief executives earning more than �200,000 to take a 10pc pay cut.

The news was welcomed by the council's Liberal Democrat opposition leader Kathy Pollard.

She said: 'Hopefully this can be the start of a new chapter. The council's controversial new strategic direction policy and the constant criticism of Andrea Hill have become so inter-linked that it has distracted from the work the council is trying to do.

'We opposed her appointment and her salary from the start. We can only hope the Conservative administration has learnt lessons from this.

'The government is saying no council chief executive should be paid more than the prime minister and, given the current economic crisis and the cuts being made across the council, I hope the new chief executive will be offered a more sensible salary.''

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