Suffolk CC chief executive Andrea Hill has gone on extended leave and faces an uncertain future, with council sources citing concerns about staff morale as the reason.
The council declined to elaborate on why Ms Hill was on leave but well-placed sources told LGC a series of HR-related matters which “need to be investigated” had seen her placed on gardening leave.
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 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.
An official statement by Suffolk acting leader Jane Storey (Con), said: “Andrea is on extended leave as agreed by myself as acting leader.”