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Highland Council agrees to appoint a new £122K deputy chief executive after months of delay

By Scott Maclennan

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Highland Council Chief Executive Donna Manson.
Highland Council Chief Executive Donna Manson.

Highland Council is to appoint a deputy chief executive on a salary of £122,812.

Recruitment for the new position to support chief executive Donna Manson will begin after councillors agreed to moves that will see one other senior management post scrapped to save more than £100,000.

There has not been a deputy chief executive since the previous postholder retired in 2019.

An attempt to create the new post last year was abandoned in the face of objections about cost from some councillors.

The depute, when appointed, will be expected to provide strategic leadership on major initiatives at the council linked to recovery, transformation, commercialisation, organisational change, redesign, workforce planning, innovation and research.

The council’s deputy leader, councillor Alasdair Christie, said the move will save £500,000 overall.

“This is an extremely important post which will play a key role in taking the council forward at this crucial time as we all start to exit from one of the worst years in living memory,” he said.

“It is an exciting time for a senior leader to join the Highland Council, providing strategic vision and with a focus on transformation and embedding a culture of continuous improvement.”

Conservative group leader Andrew Jarvie, however, talked of his “bitter disappointment” at what he said was a lack of detail in a report on the post and restructuring presented to councillors at a full council meeting last week.

He said it was a “missed and rushed opportunity” and that he struggled to see much difference between what was proposed now and the earlier moves to appoint a deputy as he also said previous talk of the postholder engaging with councillors and communities appeared to have been removed from the job specification.

Cllr Jarvie who, last week, also objected to moves to recruit a new head of education for the council when the post was advertised without being discussed by councillors first, tabled an amendment asking for a members’ seminar and more work to be done to make the matter more transparent – but was defeated on this by 42 votes to 10.

Thurso and Northwest Caithness councillor Matthew Reiss, who supported recruitment of the deputy, countered: “I actually think the job specification in a nutshell is someone to take over from the chief executive if she wasn’t available – that is it, very basically and simply.

“Roles do change and evolve and they will continue to do so because that is life.

“I am quite sure we should have a deputy. I have no doubts about it.”

Wick and East Caithness member Willie Mackay, however, told council officers: “Not one of my constituents will accept the need for a depute chief executive on £122,000 with eight well-salaried executive chief officers, 17 heads of service and staff, plus area managers and ward managers.”

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