A council has appointed its head of finance to its new top post.
Northumberland County Council has chosen corporate director of finance Steve Mason as its new lead executive director as part of a review of senior management structure which has seen the departure of chief executive Steve Stewart.
The authority has also hired Geoff Paul, former chief executive of the now defunct Blyth Valley Borough Council, who was given a £268,000 pay off when that council was abolished.
Questions have been asked about Mr Paul’s appointment, although the council has insisted it is only an interim role.
The authority announced in November it was seeking to halve the number of senior management roles from six to three, as it looks to make £32m savings in 2014/15.
Soon afterwards, Mr Stewart took voluntary redundancy along with deputy chief executive Kate Roe and Paul Moffat, corporate director of children’s services. A source at the authority claimed the departures would save it £1m a year. The council has now confirmed that Mr Mason has been appointed to the lead role.
In addition, Daljit Lally has been appointed director of children’s services in addition to her existing role in charge of adult services, and former Newcastle City Council chief executive Barry Rowland executive director of local services.
The review is still to be completed with council services still to be aligned to the new structure.
Meanwhile, the council has confirmed that Mr Paul has been brought in. He was one of five former chief executives who lost their jobs when the county council was created who shared £1.34m.
Coun Peter Jackson, leader of the council’s Conservative group, raised questions about the appointment, claiming it was effectively a fourth executive director and that its creation had not been subject to any formal or informal process.
“I have no idea what the responsibilities of that role is to be.”
A council spokesman insisted Mr Paul is employed on an interim basis.
“Steve (Mason) has brought him on a short-term basis to help with the review of the structure. He is a specialist in organisational change.”
Coun Jackson added: “It has not been explained to anyone how long this post is to be in place for, although the impression with interim roles is that they become permanent.”