Plans to axe senior council posts

County Hall, Morpeth, headquarters for Northumberland County Council.
County Hall, Morpeth, headquarters for Northumberland County Council.

Council leaders in Northumberland are looking to scrap the authority’s chief executive post in a cost-cutting drive.

Northumberland County Council’s Labour administration has put forward the proposal as part of a radical management restructure that would see five directorates reduced to three.

The responsibilities of the chief executive would pass to one of the three directors, who would become the executive lead.

There would be further job losses in ‘middle management’, where salaries range between £80,000 and £120,000.

The Labour group says the savings will help the council to manage its £42m of budget cuts imposed.

A party spokesman said: “The changes to the bureaucracy at Northumberland County Council will put a greater emphasis on frontline services.

“The full brunt of the £42m cuts imposed on the county by Cameron and Clegg’s coalition will mean a flatter management structure and we think we can limit job losses to a minimum.

“We’ll be moving from a CEO to an executive lead director, who will work with the Labour administration to deliver a real step change in service delivery.

“By moving to this new model and taking decisive action, we hope to limit the fall-out from coalition cuts and we’re calling on opposition councillors to back these plans to defend frontline services and to make sure they stand up for the county with their Government.”

Council chief executive Steve Stewart earns between £170,000 and £175,000 a year, while deputy chief executive Kate Roe’s salary is around £140,000.

The current corporate directors earn between £125,000 and £135,000 while a further 15 officers earn £80,000 or more.

Opposition groups say the cost-cutting plans need further scrutiny, but have not ruled them out.

Northumberland Conservative leader Peter Jackson said: “This is something we have been highlighting for the last four years.

“The Conservative group has been saying that there is too large a difference between the highly-paid executives and the hard-working people at the bottom of the organisation.

“This should have been reviewed two or three years ago when the unitary authority came into place.

“Once Labour publishes the detail of this consultation we will be able to make a more focused comment.”

Morpeth Liberal Democrat county councillor Andrew Tebbutt, who was previously executive member of corporate resources, said: “We think these are very radical proposals, which need very careful examination.

“We knew the council had to save over £40m next year and maintenance of services will always be the priority of the Liberal Democrats, as we have demonstrated throughout the five years of our previous administration.

“We will, however, await the result of the consultation process and receiving more detailed information before making any further comment.

“Radical proposals must not put management of services at risk because we can’t deliver services without effective management.”