You probably know by now that, yesterday, the council announced the resignation of the chief executive. We’re actually rather saddened by the news.
Of course we’ve been pursuing the saga of the chief executive’s ‘pay rise’ for some nine months. We’ve taken the view that her – as far as we can tell – public silence about the matter implies that she was ‘guilty beyond all reasonable doubt’. Whatever the truth, it seemed indisputable that the episode had damaged the credibility of the whole council; the longer it continued the greater that damage would be. Hence our sadness that the chief executive has left without being shown clearly to be ‘not guilty’. This would have helped to repair the long-term harm to the council’s reputation.
We ought to recognise the chief executive’s achievements. But, as far as the town centre and bricks and mortar are concerned, we can’t present a fair picture. Replacing Arena, revamping the High Street and redeveloping the London Road Block were schemes that were all proposed before she became chief executive. To what extent she was the driving force that made them happen we do not know. But we have supported the council’s acquisition of the shopping mall during her ‘reign’ (though we’ve questionned the price). As far as the purchase of other commercial and residential property is concerned, we weren’t in favour, but the council had few other options for raising essential income. Perhaps it’s too early – we’ll review the council’s investments in ten years’ time!
There are two obvious questions. Firstly, will the results of the investigation into the chief executive’s ‘pay rise’ be published now? We’ve not changed our prediction that they’ll never be published in full. Perhaps we’ll have to eat our words – we shall see. Secondly, who will become the new chief executive? We suspect that there won’t be any immediate recruitment. The council’s coffers must be taking a severe hammering at the moment; rental income from The Square is almost certain to be less than predicted. An opportunity to reduce the wage bill would probably be welcome.
(Is this now the time to restructure the council hierarchy? – we vaguely remember the council saying that there would be changes to the management organisation in March…)