Opposition criticise council move to axe chief executive

Change is on the agenda at County Hall in a management restructure.
Change is on the agenda at County Hall in a management restructure.

Derbyshire County Council is to scrap the role of chief executive in a management shake-up which has been criticised by the Labour group.

The changes were announced, debated and approved at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, July 26.

Three top posts are to be abolished - those of chief executive Ian Stephenson, assistant chief executive Mags Young, and the strategic director of corporate resources Judith Greenhalgh.

Council leader Barry Lewis said: “It’s our public duty to constantly look for savings to balance the council’s books.

“That sometimes means being bold and doing things differently. Every saving we make helps us to provide quality frontline services for the people of Derbyshire.”

A new strategic director of commissioning, communities and policy post will be created with a focus on providing services at value for money.

Those in favour of the plans claim they will save more than £300,000 a year - but opposition councillors have cast doubt on the figures.

Councillor Anne Western, leader of the Labour group, said: “It’s the new administration’s prerogative to have the management structure they want, but we are not supportive. The decision is based on insufficient and unsound information. We need to know more about the implications, and it is unclear how it will work.”

The only supporting evidence presented by the council, said Coun Western, was a Local Government Association (LGA) report - but this did not support the conclusions.

She said: “The report listed councils with similar structures, but most were small districts, cities with directly elected mayors, places with much bigger senior management teams or other staff who had comparable roles.

“Two counties which tried this found it did not work and reverted to a chief executive within two years. The evidence didn’t reassure us at all.”

She added: “I think it will bring confusion, with no clear single person in charge, and the LGA say this should be approached with caution.

“Labour took £3.5million out of senior management in the past four years. These changes will generate less than £250,000 - even by Coun Lewis’ own measure it fails.”

Coun Western suggested the changes were instead being made for political reasons.

She said: “There could be a significant impact on the way the council performs, in light of their stated ambition to move towards external providers running services.

“That would be a massive shift in direction for Derbyshire, and we have no idea how radical that will end up being.”

She added: “The prospect of significant changes being made within a deliberately weakened management structure is really quite worrying.”

The council is consulting with affected employees in order to implement the new changes by the end of the year.