A former council boss reported to have received a six-figure payoff when his authority was scrapped has been appointed to a controversial new role at its successor.
Geoff Paul, the former chief executive of Blyth Valley Borough Council, was reportedly paid £268,000 when the authority was scrapped in a reorganisation of local government in Northumberland in 2009.
He was recently employed by Labour run Northumberland County Council on an “interim” basis, although one councillor said he suspected his post could be made permanent.
The council has since announced the creation of two new director roles, each to be paid in excess of £100,000, a move which sparked a row over whether leaders were going back on recently announced plans to cut the number of senior posts.
It has now emerged that Mr Paul has been appointed to one of the roles, a move which has revived the debate over the new posts.
Mr Paul was one of five former chief executives who lost their jobs when the county council was created. They reportedly shared £1.34m.
In January, The Journal reported how he had been brought in by the county council to help with a review of its senior management structure.
At the time, the authority’s Conservative group leader Peter Jackson claimed: “The impression with interim roles is that they become permanent.”
Earlier this month, the council announced a new role of director of planning, economy and housing, on a salary of £110,000. They also agreed the role of director of education and skills in place of a head of service post, to be paid between £100,000 and £120,000.
Coun Jackson at the time claimed the posts were senior management roles, which the authority had last November revealed it was to reduce in number from six to three.
This was denied by council bosses, who insisted the roles were not senior.
The council has now confirmed the appointment of Mr Paul in the planning role.
A spokesman said: “The council is delighted to confirm the appointment of Geoff Paul as director of planning, economy and housing.
“His previous experience at a senior level as a chief executive, combined with his business experience over the past five years in setting up his own company, will be of great value to the council as it continues to drive forward the economic growth of the county.”
Last night, Coun Jackson repeated his claim that Mr Paul’s role was a senior post, a comment backed by Liberal Democrat group leader Jeff Reid.
The former said: “I still question whether this role should have been created at that level of seniority and at that level of pay.”
He claimed the public is “sick to death of these very high salaries.”
Yet a Labour group spokesman once again insisted the role is not senior.
He said: “It’s absolutely untrue to suggest that the council is creating more executive directors. The number remains at three with a saving to the tax payer of £540,000 per annum.
“We’re reviewing the next tier of managers with a view to saving an additional £300,000 per year.”