HEREFORDSHIRE Council has created a new £90,000 a year role and extended the interim contracts of two top bosses – one of which is worth £147,000 a year.

That new role revises the grading and job title of solicitor to the council to Assistant Director, Governance.

The council says the post and its £90,000 salary reflects changes in the role and its responsibilities.

Chief finance officer Peter Robinson and Director of Adults Well-Being Helen Coombes have had their interim contracts with the council extended to September next year.
All three changes have been backed by the council’s employment panel.

The panel was told that the changes were necessary to “ensure continuing effective leadership” of a large  proportion of the council’s key services undergoing significant change.

In 12 -15 months’ time the  council expects to be on “firmer foundations” with many of the ongoing changes  delivered, the panel heard.

This, the panel heard, was likely to “clarify” the roles in future and ensure that the  posts are attractive – with greater stability – to “high calibre” internal and external candidates in future.

The council’s former finance boss left in September last to be replaced, as an interim appointment, by Peter Robinson, formerly director of finance for Bristol City Council.

The budget situation Mr Robinson inherited was described as “difficult and challenging” with the council having overspent in its previous financial year and forecasting a £4.5m overspend in 2013/14.

External auditor, Grant Thornton had rated the authority as “red” over its reserves.

Subsequently, the council has agreed a three year financial plan to deliver significant savings and replenish its reserves. It has also spent within its budget for 2013/14.

Mr Robinson has also led on negotiations with Defra in securing  agreement for the Waste PFI contract with Worcestershire, re-structured the council’s finance and re-procured the internal audit contract.

Recently, he took on responsibility for ICT strategy and the management and client role for the ICT element of the council’s contract with Hoople.

Mr Robinson is contracted through a management service provider called NEPRO.  The contract for these services equates to £147,000 a year including on costs such as employers national insurance contributions and pension - on costs for council employees are in the region of 30%.

The contract does not cover sickness or leave. NEPRO charge 1% of the contract cost, which is approximately £1,500 per year.

Helen Coombes was appointed to her interim role in July last year to stay in post until mid 2014. She stays on to see Adults Well-Being through major social care service changes. Her total remuneration is £108k compared to a full time equivalent of £120k.

The role of solicitor to the council, currently held by Bill Norman, has, over the past six months, taken on a range of additional responsibilities, most recently HR and organisation development management.

Re-grading to Assistant Director level is said by the council to recognise the additional responsibilities.

Additional costs for the  Chief Financial Officer, approximately £30k - £15k in both 2014/15 and 2015/16  - include ongoing payments to the managed service provider, although a significant discount has been agreed for these and for a four day a week consultancy element of the contract with NEPRO.

The council says the additional  cost can be managed from additional savings achieved in  the 2014/15 budget.

The costs of continuing the current arrangements for the Director of Adults Well-Being are within the approved budget of a permanent Director post.

Additional costs associated with the re-grading of the Assistant Director, Governance - including on-costs - is £13k a year with these costs met by deleting the Head of Governance post.

In July last year, the council confirmed changes to its senior management structure that were expected to save nearly £200k.