Chief out as high pay role in jeopardy

08-1515-2''Henry Boot Developments launched a 200 acre commercial scheme at Markham Vale on Wednesday. Pictured is Nick Hodgson, Chief Executive of Derbyshire County Council.
08-1515-2''Henry Boot Developments launched a 200 acre commercial scheme at Markham Vale on Wednesday. Pictured is Nick Hodgson, Chief Executive of Derbyshire County Council.

Derbyshire County Council’s chief executive Nick Hodgson became one of the latest highly-paid leading figures to leave the role following nationwide pressure for local authorities to cut costs by terminating the position.

Newly-appointed county council chairman David Wilcox announced at the council’s recent AGM, at County Hall, Matlock, that the authority’s chief executive is to leave the council in June.

The announcement was made after Labour party members regained control of the former Conservative-led council with a landslide local election victory on 3rd May .

Coun Wilcoxsaid: “Chief executive Nick Hodgson is to leave the authority at the beginning of June. He has worked for the council for 38 years - the last 16 as chief executive.”

He added: “I would like to thank Nick personally and on behalf of the council, for an enormous contribution to the work of the council over many years.”

The move follows growing speculation surrounding the £152,000-a-year chief executive’s position.

Coun Andrew Lewer asked Coun Wilcox for permission during the meeting to ask a question about the chief executive but he was refused to do so.

Coun Wilcox indicated there would be other opportunities to express gratitude and to discuss the matter at a later date.

Newly-installed council leader Anne Western has said she was unable to comment on Mr Hodgson’s exit for legal reasons and would not say whether he would be replaced.

Mr Hodgson has said he is sad to be leaving but he was not allowed to speak further about the reasons.

The former Conservative-led county council had previously defended the chief executive’s role and Mr Hodgson previously stated he was doing “a vital job” for the authority.

He said: “I help manage a £500m organisation that provides numerous services that are fairly well regarded. If I was doing the same role in the private sector I would perhaps be paid more.”

Two years ago, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles had called on chief executives earning over £150,000 a year to cut their pay and went on to suggest councils should consider axing the role in a bid to offset budgets during cutbacks in a difficult economic climate.

Derbyshire Dales District Council and Derbyshire Dales National Park Authority have defended their chief executives’ roles but Amber Valley Borough Council axed its chief executive earlier in the year to make savings.

Mr Hodgson joined Derbyshire County Council in 1975 and he has said managing £100m worth of cuts over the past four years while protecting services is among his proudest achievements.

During the same meeting, the new Labour-led council introduced changes to the format of full council meetings after councillors voted by a majority in favour of the proposal.

Newly-appointed council leader Anne Western, Labour councillor for Barlborough and Clowne, will now present a report to the council on major issues, and the council will receive a report about decisions taken at cabinet meetings and members will be prompted to ask questions in writing prior to any future council meetings.

The Labour-led council argued the procedure has been adopted in other local authorities and it is hoped it will assist communications between the cabinet and the council and enable more considered responses.

However, Conservative councillors argued the constitution was being dismantled and the new format would stifle members’ questions and erode the capacity for debate.

Cllr Simon Spencer, Conservative councillor for Dovedale and former council deputy leader, said: “There is a major change in the constitution of this authority and how it does business and it takes away the opportunity of back-benchers to ask questions.”

In other matters, Cllr Wilcox was officially appointed as the new council chairman and Cllr Janet Hill, Labour councillor for Dronfield East, was appointed as the county council’s new vice chairman.

Council leader Anne Western told how she is delighted to be the first female leader at Derbyshire County Council.

She said the council would be focussing on Markham Vale, Glossop library, the costs of travel, apprenticeships and building partnerships with borough and district councils.