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Highland Council hunt for new £123,612-a-year deputy chief executive triggers 'bloated bureaucracy' criticism from councillor

By Scott Maclennan

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Highland Council.
Highland Council.

Highland Council has relaunched its search for a new £123,612-a-year deputy chief executive despite a number of councillors strongly opposing the move.

Taken together with another advertised top tier role of executive chief officer for communities and place (£94,732 a year), the combined salaries will top £218,000 annually.

Councillors initially blocked the move last year because of the fiasco surrounding the appointment of a former interim education boss, Paul Senior.

There was outrage when it emerged that the contract would cost the local authority £936 a day – the equivalent of around £244,000 for a year.

Now advertisements have been placed seeking “an outstanding leader with proven experience of delivering organisational vision and strategy” for the deputy chief executive position.

They “will be instrumental in further developing resilience, continued growth and sustainability” but their main role will be “to deputise for the chief executive and lead the recovery, improvement and transformation programme".

The second role is for someone to come in and lead the communities and place service which day to day handles waste strategy, operations and street cleaning; amenities and public conveniences; bereavement services and crematorium.

The job also encompasses environmental health and works with communities to improve public services through community asset transfers; engagement; learning and development and planning.

Already voices are speaking out about the move, including Inverness South Councillor Duncan Macpherson.

He said: “This is something that I voted against and strongly made my feelings known in the debate in August 2020, when I highlighted that the previous incumbent was paid a generous £10,000 uplift on their senior management salary ‘to cover the odd occasions’ when they would be required to step in for the chief executive in their absence.

“In May 2021, I again voted against the creation of this new post, while my other councillor colleagues were persuaded by the newly revised and apparently wider job description.

“This new deputy chief executive post came back before councillors in a freshly re-drawn job specification, which was narrowly voted through in May 2021, much to my frustration and disappointment.”

Cllr Andrew Jarvie is also against the move, saying: “Despite my continued efforts to halt the creation of this unjustified post along with the continually bloating bureaucracy it is part of.

“The SNP ultimately decided to club together with the so-called ‘independents’ and Lib Dems to force through this costly endeavour to which they can’t even agree amongst themselves what it’s actually for.

“We are publicly told it is to secure investment and provide new skills, but some also alluded to it being necessary to provide scrutiny and balance to the Chief Executive. If true, this must be one of the single biggest political failings in local government.

“It is the responsibility of councillors to provide challenge and scrutiny, but the senior councillors who run this council would appear to be content to abandon this critical duty and waste our money to hire someone else to do it for them. If it is indeed the true reason, I would do it for free.

“The lead person to provide scrutiny to senior officials is the leader of the council. If members of her ruling administration don’t have confidence in her ability to do this, then they should find a leader who will not sidestep the issue at huge cost to the taxpayer."

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