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Elected mayor scraps chief post

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A newly installed elected mayor has abolished the chief executive’s post, citing a £142,000 saving and a higher profile for himself.

Chief executive Paul Walker left Copeland BC on Friday with an undisclosed payoff and his duties have been shared out among three other directors.

Elected mayor Mike Starkie (Ind) gained the mayoralty in May after the post was created by a 2014 referendum.

The council has a Labour majority and the move to restructure the senior management is understood to have had cross party support.

In a report to councillors, Mr Starkie said that deleting the chief executive post would save £142,287 in a full year and that Copeland needed to save some £3m over the next three years.

Moving to a structure where the head of paid service was ‘first among equals’ would enable the mayor “to raise his profile and be the public voice and visible ambassador for the council”.

The council said Mr Walker’s £119,321 termination payment reflected his entitlements to contractual pay and a redundancy payment and would be funded through efficiency savings.

Director of economic growth has Pat Graham become interim head of paid service.

The mayor’s said he rejected the idea of a shared chief executive as Copeland had “had mixed experiences of working in shared arrangements over the past few years”.

One observer of the process said that Mr Starkie had come into local government from a private sector background and was unused to the relationship between his post and a chief executive.

The source said: “It’s a flaw in the elected mayor model if they see a chief executive as someone who stops them doing things when all the chief executive is doing is giving proper advice.”

Mr Walker joined Copeland in 2010 from Blackpool BC where he had been managing director of services. He started his local government career at South Ribble BC and later worked at Bolton MBC.


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