A Northumberland MP has backed the hiring of a new council boss and hit out at critics of his new role.
Labour’s Ronnie Campbell has spoken out in support of Northumberland County Council’s appointment of Geoff Paul, the former chief executive of Blyth Valley Borough Council, to a new £110,000 a year role.
The Blyth Valley MP has also hit out at critics of Labour bosses at the authority, who were angered by the creation of Mr Paul’s role and a second £100,000 plus post following moves to cut its number of senior jobs.
He last night insisted Mr Paul had been an “damn good” officer at Blyth and called on Conservative opponents of his role to state how they would come up with the savings which the authority is seeking to make.
The council last week confirmed the appointment of Mr Paul as its new director of planning, economy and housing, on an annual salary of £110,000.
The former Blyth council boss had reportedly received a £268,000 pay off when his authority was scrapped in 2009.
He had been working at the council in an interim capacity in recent months, assisting its senior management review, although Conservative opponents suspected his role could be made permanent.
His role was created, along with a new director of education and skills - to be paid between £100,000 and £120,000, on the back of Labour bosses’ moves to reduce the number of senior posts at the council from six to three.
The roles sparked criticism from Tory and Liberal Democrat opponents who said they contradicted the pledge to reduce senior posts, although Labour bosses insisted they were the level below its top jobs.
Mr Campbell has now waded into the row by insisting Mr Paul had wanted to transfer to the county council when the Blyth authority was scrapped, but that its then Lib Dem leaders under Jeff Reid had only sought to take on officers from defunct councils at Alnwick and Berwick.
“It was not his fault he had to get his money.”
The MP claimed Mr Paul was an officer under whom the Blyth council had achieved beacon and excellent status.
“I am happy he is back, we have got a good officer up there and they should work with him.”
Mr Campbell also called on Tory opponents of Mr Paul’s role, including council group leader Peter Jackson, to say how they would come up with the £30m savings to which the senior management review is intended to contribute.
“That is part of the plan, if you are getting the Government cutting your supply money, you have got to cut your cloth accordingly.
“You do not cut from the bottom, you have got to sack them at the top.”
Coun Reid last night hit back, accusing Mr Campbell of talking “rubbish.”
He insisted Mr Paul had been interviewed for a job at the county council by a cross party panel when the Blyth authority was scrapped, and that the “best people” had been taken on.