Council chief's decision to resign 'could save �50,000'

COUNCILLORS and North Herts residents have responded to an announcement by a council’s chief executive, who announced this week that he is to resign after being appointed in the same role at another council.

North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC) chief executive John Campbell will become take up his new role at the Borough Council of Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, subject to formal approval at a meeting of Wellingborough’s full council on December 13.

If approved, Mr Campbell will start at Wellingborough Council next year after serving three months’ notice at NHDC.

Although a replacement will be sought, Cllr Judi Billing said that it could be seen as an opportunity to save money, by sharing a chief executive with a neighbouring authority.

She told The Comet: “It would be a marvellous opportunity to save at least �50,000 a year.

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“There are lots of councils around the country who now have one chief executive for at least two district councils.

“That way, you could save �50,000 on senior management, which could then be pooled back into the community.”

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Former chairman of Letchworth Garden City Council Philip Ross echoed Cllr Billing’s comments, adding that it could have repercussions for the council, which is set to be abolished under Help Eliminate Letchworth Parish council’s (HELP) administration.

“In terms of local government, I think it is a good thing,” he said.

“At the very top of NHDC was a highly paid figure who seemed opposed to town and parish councils. Chief executive’s salaries have traditionally been linked to the size of their budgets and hence their opposition to transferring services and budgets down to parish and town councils.

“We have a new leader at Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation and now a change of leadership at NHDC - it all bodes well for the future and should be good news for Letchworth.”

Hitchin Churchgate campaigners said that they hoped Mr Campbell’s replacement would take note of residents’ views on local issues.

Robin Dartington added: “It is understandable that John Campbell wants a career move, and we wish him well.

“Appointment of a new chief executive is an opportunity for NHDC Leader to consider the performance of the council’s senior officers and institute higher standards of performance in particular on property management affecting Hitchin.

“Churchgate has been a waste of time and money, Hitchin Town Hall has been fumbled, review of community halls unresponsive to local needs, the Post Office Site ignored until too late, and the re-use of Hitchin Museum is going the same way with no public consultation before a secret decision.”

In a statement issued on Monday, Mr Campbell said: “It has been a great privilege and pleasure to lead North Herts District Council for the last eight years and I will remain an ambassador and advocate for the organisation which has seen and overcome many challenges over recent years.

“It is however, time for a fresh challenge and I am looking forward to taking up my new post at Wellingborough council, although I will be sad to leave behind the team of highly skilled councillors and officers who do such a fantastic job for the residents of North Herts.”

Leader of NHDC Cllr Lynda Needham added that, although work had not begun to secure another chief executive, she would soon be working with Mr Campbell and the deputy leader of the council, Cllr Terry Hone, to appoint someone.

“Obviously we are very sad to see him go, but for him it’s such a good move,” she said.

“It cuts down his travelling, his carbon footprint, and the hours at the end and beginning of the day.

“Certainly we are very pleased for him, but for us, it will be a sad day.”

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