Jul 31 2014

Susan Says: No Need to Restore Harrow’s Chief Executive Role

susan_hall_2Cllr. Susan Hall, Leader of the Council’s Conservative Group, said: “When our previous Conservative administration abolished the Chief Executive position in Harrow, it wasn’t a decision taken lightly or without consideration – despite the picture Labour have attempted to paint. We weighed up the pros and cons, as anyone does when making difficult choices, and decided it was the best way forward for Harrow.

Across the country, councils are looking for inventive ways to save money, and removing chief executives is an increasingly common way to do it. In Harrow, the decision will save around £1.2 million over 4 years – a sizeable sum which prevents cuts being needed elsewhere. I think it’s inexcusable when councils only ever make savings from the bottom up – cutting services in the process – without ever looking to make efficiencies at the top.

The system we put in place in Harrow saw the statutory responsibilities of the Chief Executive taken on by an existing officer who is also in charge of one of the Council’s main departments. A fact which may surprise some people is that the Chief Executive did not actually ‘run’ anything, nor were they responsible for any specific services – which in our view isn’t acceptable. One of the great ironies of this debate is that Cllr. David Perry – who has been highly critical of our decision, labelling it ‘dictatorial’ – has created a Cabinet position for himself which is eerily similar to the old job description for the Chief Executive. He’s not responsible for any major departments either, focusing instead on strategy, partnership and corporate leadership.

However, I won’t criticise that too harshly – aside from the hypocrisy of it – because I actually feel the overall direction of councils should come from their political leadership. After all, we are elected, have policy platforms, and ultimately carry the can if things go wrong. Harrow has some wonderful officers who bring expert advice and professional knowledge to decision-making, and I’m very grateful to them for doing as such. However, at the highest level officers are akin to senior civil servants – do they really need their own manager in a Chief Executive, paid £40,000 more than the Prime Minister? We would argue not.

I was very fortunate during my time as Leader of the Council to not only have guidance from a fantastic team of senior officers, but the support of an enthusiastic and talented Cabinet. Maybe Cllr. Perry doesn’t have that luxury, and feels he needs an additional helping hand in the form of a Chief Executive. However, in our view reinstating the role isn’t justifiable – not only due to the cost, but because in Harrow the Conservatives proved its responsibilities can be managed successfully by senior officers and the Council’s political leadership.”

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  1. Mike N

    I wholeheartedly agree with Susan Hall that we do not need and cannot bring back the position of a Chief Executive. The position has been well managed by another senior council officer since last year, so a big thank you to them.
    We cannot, as a borough that needs to save £75 million over the next 4 years, justify paying in the excess of £175000 for someone to fill a ‘non job’ position. After all that is more than the Heads of the Metropolitan Police, The London Fire Brigade and has already been pointed out the Prime Minister.
    What annoys the people of Harrow, who after all pay heavily through their taxes for the council to be run on their behalf, is that when money is tight the council starts by cutting services that generally effect us all. Street cleaning, park upkeep, refuge collection, street maintenance and the like. These services are the real face of any local authority. Once the borough starts to look run down that’s when we attract the undesirables into Harrow with all the consequences that brings, increase of crime, more litter etc etc. But they always have spare cash to waste on hair brain schemes.
    When will those who are elected by the people start listening to us on what we want and not just forcing on the residents what they want!
    We must go back to the good old days……..Harrow Council start working for us. You are not a business you are a public service, so start acting like one.

    1. Someonewhocares

      Maybe it would help to take a different perspective her on all this – for instance how many LONDON Borough Councils have actually abolished their Chief Executive role – and how overall did it affect their services? There may be some interesting examples of the advantages & disadvantages of doing this?

      Saying councils are finding ‘increasingly inventive’ ways to cut costs is one way to described what happened to Mr.Lockwood, but at what greater cost? Besides he gets 1/3rd of his salary now anyway as a pension of course…

      The point is council employees need some continuity in leadership, otherwise ‘bad and appropriate decisions’ may just get pushed through by pushy (elected) leaders?

      The consultation about Mr. Lockwood lasted 30 days. Residents were not consulted directly either, but I suspect some certainly gave their opinions on this in May.

      How many other Harrow Council Director roles have similar remuneration packages? There’s a thought – but, with the benefit of hindsight in this regard when does ‘inventive’ become ‘a false economy’ and then, ultimately, ‘destructive’?

  2. Angelina

    Mike N you are right the Council has stopped listening. There can be no justification for bringing back the Chief Executive role. As for renumeration packages and big fat pensions which I do not agree with, this cannot be an excuse for keeping anyone in their role if it is no longer required, or the person is not doing their job properly.

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