The Green Group of Councillors have condemned today’s removal of Brighton & Hove City Council Chief Executive, Penny Thompson CBE, calling it a clumsy and costly mistake.
Green Group convenor, Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, said:
“The Leader of the Council was not able to give us a stronger reason than a spat with the Chief Executive to end her employment. If there were problems between the Chief Exec and the new Labour administration then surely any Leader worth their salt would have worked to resolve these?
“£269k was agreed by the Labour administration as a settlement with the outgoing Chief Executive. However I’d be surprised if the final bill, including recruiting a new Chief Executive, will leave any change from half a million. Like us, most people will be angry that such an obscene amount of money is being spent in this way.
“At today’s meeting Green Councillors argued that, in the interests of transparency, this decision should have taken place in public. Decisions about public money and how it is spent, especially at this time of cuts, are of great importance.
“£0.5m is equivalent to a year’s salaries for 30 teaching assistants or 20 social workers. I’m sure most people would agree with us that helping our city’s children and vulnerable adults would be a much better use of public money. While council officers have had their pay frozen and are asked to cover for posts that haven’t been filled, it seems to be one rule for council officers and another for the Council leader. Further, there were no noted concerns with the Chief Executive’s performance yet she was told she should be removed. We think this is a dangerous precedent and doesn’t say very much about Labour Party values in action.
“The Labour leader talks about how his council will focus on “getting the basics right” but this is getting one of the basics wrong, very wrong. From the new Labour administration, we have seen flippant use of public money to reverse publicly funded transport initiatives and now to remove someone at an eye-watering cost to the taxpayer. This suggests that the Labour administration is out of its depth and already showing signs that it doesn’t know how to control spending. It begs the question: can taxpayers in Brighton and Hove afford many more of their costly mistakes?”
Cllr. Ollie Sykes, the Green Group Finance Spokesperson, said:
“This is a jaw-droppingly bad and unnecessary decision. It results from poor judgement by this administration and it will cost the council hundreds of thousands of pounds – money it can’t afford to squander. Losing Penny Thompson is a major blow and finding a replacement CEO of the same calibre at the same salary will be virtually impossible. In its first four weeks, the new Labour administration has taken initiatives and made promises that will haemorrhage council tax payers’ money for zero tangible benefit, at a time when services are under huge pressure. I’m genuinely concerned about management of the council under this administration.”
Cllr Alex Phillips, Green Group deputy Convenor, said:
“This is not how someone should be treated when they have clearly and consistently met all of their targets. Penny Thompson is the first woman to run this authority. She has been a strong role model and it is a great shame that she is to go.”
 Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 specifies ‘Public Interest Tests’
“Officers and members must ask themselves: does the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweigh the public interest in discussing the information. Examples which would encourage disclosure…(iii) promoting accountability and transparency in the spending of public money…”
 BHCC Hire costs from http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/jobs/council-jobs
£16k teaching assistant
£25k social worker