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Frater lends a hand to crisis council

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Crisis-hit Wirral MBC has appointed local government troubleshooter Michael Frater to beef up its senior management team during the absence through illness of chief executive Jim Wilkie.

Mr Frater (pictured) is a veteran of several problematic authorities. He has been chief executive at three councils and held interim chief positions at another three.

A Wirral spokeswoman said he had been appointed to “provide additional support to the senior management team, in the absence of the chief executive while we face a number of challenges”.

Ian Coleman will continue as acting chief executive during Mr Frater’s tenure at Wirral. Mr Frater has been appointed initially for two months, with the support of all three main political parties.

A council report said the contract for Mr Frater’s work was large enough to have normally required it to seek five quotations, but “given the need for the senior management support to commence as soon as possible and the need for a person of the highest calibre, the LGA recommended only two names for consideration”. The other, unnamed, person withdrew their application.

Leader Jeff Green (Con) said: “We have had highly critical reports on corporate governance and we need additional senior management support from someone who has a track record of turning councils round. Officers will be expected to co-operate with him.”

Mr Frater was chief executive at Redbridge LBC from 1993 until 2000, after which he took over Telford & Wrekin for six years, but was additionally seconded for a year to Walsall MBC, at the government’s request when the senior staff left after a damning Audit Commission governance report.

He moved to Nottingham City Council is 2006 but left in 2008 after a dispute with its leadership. In 2009 he was interim chief at Surrey CC as it grappled with an unfavourable Ofsted report and was subsequently interim chief at Hounslow LBC.

Wirral has faced whistleblowing scandal over its adult social care services, which led to the fall in February of its previous Labour administration and the arrival of an improvement board organised by the LGA.

Last month a director was suspended pending a probe into a highways contract award and Cllr Green complained that a “mystical” group of officers was holding meetings while refusing to furnish him with minutes.

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