The story about the changes at Rugby has spread in the last few days. As well as the local government press, ConservativeHome picked it up (although the article having been edited by Harry Phibbs, it is full of oddness).
I also have been shown a response to a Freedom of Information request which suggests that the only legal advice provided to councillors at last week’s meeting was over whether the decision should be discussed in the public or private part of the meeting (it was taken in the private portion).
On this blog, we had a comment arrive from someone based at the Town Hall:
The following link may provide answers to some of your questions.
To clarify – Cllr Humphrey will not be Chief Executive.
Also, the arrangement was debated and agreed at Full Council in February.
Having read the meeting minutes from February, all I can see is that a decision was taken (in the private portion of that meeting) to approve the interim arrangements that would apply after March. Back in February, it was known that Simon Warren was leaving in March to take up the post of Chief Executive at Wolverhampton. It was also the case that Rugby was looking to merge their administrative functions with neighbouring Nuneaton, and so we the public were under the impression that the interim arrangements were to cover until a unified Chief Executive took over.
But in May, the Tories lost control of Nuneaton, and the merger was killed off. So Rugby had to look for a more permanent solution. They claim that this is to simply extend the same arrangements. However, back in February, I don’t recall much mention of extra responsibility for the Leader, only that the two deputies, Andrew Gabbitas and Ian Davis, would take over the responsibilities.
Now we are being told that the two deputies will be promoted to ‘Executive Director’ and that Cllr Humphrey will take over responsibility for various strategic areas that would usually be taken by a Chief Executive. Now, not only is Cllr Humphrey’s allowance going to be reviewed, but so are the salaries of the new Executive Directors. It remains to be seen how much of an actual saving will be being made.
Mind you, if the Borough Council is looking at ideas for savings, and is making it known that it may be ‘too small’ to have a CEO, then perhaps it doesn’t need 48 borough councillors? Especially when the real decisions are made by the half-dozen or so who sit in the Cabinet, under the now aggrandised Craig Humphrey.
And if we are going to have one councillor who is carrying such responsibility as Cllr Humphrey is, why not have them be an elected mayor, and do it properly?
The one thing that I don’t understand is why this has been decided behind closed doors, and why we still have not had a full, easy to understand, explanation of what responsibilities have been transferred from a council officer to a councillor. It’s one thing to put in place interim arrangements to fix a short-term gap, but quite another to bring in an indefinite solution.
I believe that Cllr Humphrey is a plumber by trade. I’m sure he knows the difference between a quick bodge to stop a drip, and the real solution which is to replace a faulty part. You don’t leave the bodge in permanently, as it can easily make the problem worse in the long run.