Northumberland County Council may axe chief executive post

Northumberland County Council could be set to scrap its most senior post as it seeks to make millions of pounds worth of savings

Steve Stewart chief exec of Northumberland County Council
Steve Stewart chief exec of Northumberland County Council

A North council could be set to scrap its most senior post as it seeks to make millions of pounds worth of savings.

Labour leaders on Northumberland County Council have confirmed they are looking at axing the chief executive’s job as they seek to deal with a £42m budget cut.

The move was last night welcomed by Conservative opponents who said the position has a salary higher than the prime minister’s.

Reduced government funding means that the authority needs to make £132m in savings over the next four years, with estimates that the figure for next year alone could reach £42m.

An internal memo seen by The Journal sets out how the council is proposing to get rid of the chief executive post, currently filled by Steve Stewart, as part of a cost-cutting review of its senior management structure.

It states: “This new structure would save money, reduce senior management and ensure that the council is best placed to deliver our priorities in the future.

“The proposed change is to move from a structure of a chief executive and five corporate directors to a structure of three executive directors, with one them being the lead executive director.

“There would therefore be a move from six top level managers to three.”

Last night council leader Grant Davey told The Journal: “We’re looking at ways of making the council more efficient and unfortunately we do need to make some tough decisions on how we do that.

“As part of that, we’re starting a consultation on a proposed new senior management structure. This new structure would save money, reduce the number of senior managers and will mean that the council is best placed to deliver our priorities in the future. Formal consultation has now started and will run until the new year with councillors set to make the final decisions in early 2014.”

In December 2010, The Journal reported that Mr Stewart was taking a voluntary 5% pay cut, with his salary shortly before that put at £188,458 – larger than that of David Cameron, who was then paid around £143,000.

Coun Peter Jackson, leader of the Conservative opposition group, said: “The excessive number of senior managers and the excessive pay levels that they have been getting for the last few years is something that we have been talking about regularly as a Conservative group.

“We have pointed out many times over the last four years about the disparity of pay rates in Northumberland County Council.

“We have had a situation where the chief executive was getting paid more than the prime minister whereas the people at the lower end of the organisation who are performing all the front line services are getting paid less than the living wage.”

However, he added: “We have seen no details whatsoever of the three new roles the Labour administration wish to create.

“No one has seen this, not even the staff. It seems to me they are actually setting the management structure on the back of a fag packet.”

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