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By Jennifer Taylor ...
By Jennifer Taylor

The Association of Local Authority Chief Executives has recruited a third consultant to cope with increasing levels of conflict between chief executives and councils.

Former Northampton BC chief executive Roger Morris will join existing consultants Richard Penn and Peter Bounds, following a 30% increase in ALACE's caseload between 2002-03 and 2003-04.

Last year 62 chief executives were assisted by ALACE, with 24 cases revolving around termination of employment.

Of these cases, eight involved a complete breakdown in relations between chief executives and their council and four concerned complaints against chief executives.

Mr Penn cited three reasons for the increase: the introduction of the comprehensive performance assessment, the emergence of younger chief executives for whom early retirement was not an option and the increased use of solicitors.

He said more chief executives were 'getting into difficulty' because 'the CPA process has exposed some authorities in terms of their performance and more often than not, chief executives take the rap for that'.

Dealing with conflicts was becoming more difficult because many chief executives were now under 50 years of age.

Mr Penn said: 'Access to pension was the easy way for a chief executive and an authority to settle their differences. Now, more cases are going the disciplinary route.'

In such cases, chief executives face a maximum suspension of two months before a designated independent person is brought in to settle the issue.

Recent examples include David Bowles and Lincolnshire CC, Christine Laird and Cheltenham BC, and Jim Brooks and Kingston upon Hull City Council.

Increasing use of solicitors by councils and chief executives was also drawing out the process.

Mr Penn added: 'If you involve solicitors, things get more difficult and complex.'

Mr Morris has been on the ALACE council for 22 years and was chair until last month. He is a former president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers.

He said: 'The demands and challenges of the job have got steadily greater over the years. Senior managers are in a situation which is more and more visible and measured.'

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