Suffolk CC chief executive Andrea Hill has been placed on gardening leave so the council can investigate anonymous whistle blowing complaints, the council has confirmed.
Suffolk acting leader Jane Storey (Con) said: “The chief executive has been asked by the council to take additional leave so that preliminary investigations can be made into anonymous whistle blowing complaints received by the council.
“Andrea Hill has agreed to remain away from work so that the review can be carried out independently.”
The news follows LGC revealing that Ms Hill’s leave is related to staffing issues rather than philosophical disagreements with the political leadership over the council’s controversial transformation programme.
A source told LGC: “Speculation is growing that her long-term future is not assured because of the concerns about staff morale that need to be investigated. This is not about the council’s transformation programme. It is about internal staffing matters that need to be investigated.”
The Association of Local Authority Chief Executives (ALACE) has thrown its weight firmly behind Ms Hill. ALACE secretary Mary Orton said: “Andrea Hill is a first-class chief executive and she has our full support.”
The news follows a turbulent period as the council attempts to roll out a radical transformation programme, the New Strategic Direction, of which Ms Hill is a key architect. The programme, which sparked fury from unions and opposition members, has since been placed under review.
Councillors have raised concerns to LGC about staff morale and there have been reports of a backbench rebellion in the ruling Conservative group.
The council also announced a probe into staff welfare in its legal department following the death of the council’s acting head of legal services, David White in April (18 April, LGCplus.com).
Mark Bee (Con), the council’s leader-elect, announced he planned to “reflect on and review” the council’s transformation plans in April, with echoes of ministers’ recent pause on controversial plans for NHS reform.
Writing in local paper, the Evening Star, Cllr Bee said: “I’d like the time between now and the council meeting on 26 May, to be a time for reflection and review.
“I believe that the direction in which we are heading is the right one, but that we need to be very clear about our aims, about what we are going to be putting in the place of the things we are stopping, before we actually stop them.
“I want to use this time to reflect, to think carefully about the pace with which we are moving, and be clear about how existing services will be replaced.”
Cllr Bee also announced a re-think about plans to slash funding for school crossing patrols and divest library services, which had proved politically sensitive.