Confusion over top jobs at council

Jean Hunter, interim chief executive of South Ribble Borough Council
Jean Hunter, interim chief executive of South Ribble Borough Council

The appointment of key roles within South Ribble Council has been marred with confusion and accusations of rule breaking.

At a meeting on Wednesday, members unanymously ratified the appointment of interim chief executive Jean Hunter for a period of 12 months, with a salary of £176,000.

She replaces Mike Nuttall who resigned in July as chief executive and also as head of paid service and chief financial officer. But the appointment of a new head of paid service and chief financial officer was delayed.

Mrs Hunter will not be employed by the council, and, according to the constitution, cannot be head of paid service as she is not a council officer.

It was proposed that the two additional roles be taken on by an existing member of staff.

Opposition leader Paul Foster said the proposal was “unfair”, adding: “If we appoint a CEO tonight, to meet the requirements they have to be head of paid services and chief financial officer. But Jean Hunter is not going to be, she’s not qualified and we haven’t debated this.”

He added: “Please members of the Conservative group, will you get a grip of this?

“Our council is on it’s knees and there’s no reason why I should be having to stand up and make these pleas to you.”

Legal services manager David Whelan said: “If we don’t do this (decision) tonight, the implications are potentially catastophic.”

A waiver was agreed for the roles to be temporarily covered until a decision at the next full council meeting.