Mr Stratford stepped down from the position he has held for six years with immediate effect last week. Val Dodds, the council’s head of legal services, wrote a letter to officers and councillors warning them not to discuss details of Mr Stratford’s severance package.
Council leader John Shipley (Lib Dem) was last month at the forefront of a campaign to have details of the severance package paid to John Parkin, the former chief executive of the local authority-owned Newcastle Airport, made public. Newcastle Central MP Mr Cousins accused him of “complete hypocrisy”.
“The city council leader was very unhappy he wasn’t told [the details of Mr Parkin’s pay off] but at the same time he has struck a secrecy agreement with his own chief executive who he has plainly fired,” he claimed.
Although no official reason has been given for Mr Stratford’s departure, it comes in the wake of a damning report on the council’s local development framework which has now been withdrawn. Government-appointed planning inspector Anthony Thickett said he had “serious reservations regarding the soundness of the plan”, in particular relating to housing.
A corporate assessment by the Audit Commission found Newcastle’s ambitions would prove difficult to achieve “without improvements in the consistency and coherence of corporate management”.
Meanwhile, an Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development report found the city showed “limited prosperity and growth in gross value added, productivity and employment” compared to the rest of the UK.
Mr Cousins claimed Mr Stratford’s performance was “just not good enough”.
“I think Mr Stratford has shown very weak leadership,” he said. “I have been very concerned about the creation of a bureaucratic culture that relies heavily on the employment of consultants and still fails to deliver on significant issues.”
In a statement, Cllr Shipley said: “I believe the council has made significant progress over recent years and I recognise fully the part Ian has played in leading our officer team.”