EXCLUSIVE: Three new 'super directors' tasked with turning around Wirral Council's fortunes - at a cost of £365,000 a year (From Wirral Globe)
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EXCLUSIVE: Three new 'super directors' tasked with turning around Wirral Council's fortunes - at a cost of £365,000 a year
A MAJOR shake-up in the way Wirral council is managed is coming with three new “super directors” appointed - at a cost of £365,000.
Radical changes are revealed in a report by new chief executive Graham Burgess which will be presented to a special meeting of the cabinet next week.
A new direction will be seen by many as coming not before time.
The authority's reputation recently has been dragged through the mud with two major inquiries reaching highly-damaging conclusions about the way the organisation is managed.
But while the proposals are being supported by council leader Cllr Phil Davies, criticism is already being levelled at the new chief's first serious foray into town hall policy.
A former Liberal Democrat group leader said the changes are not radical enough and branded the move as "crass" given that four senior officers are currently suspended from work with their futures uncertain.
Mr Burgess, who took the helm at the beginning of September, says the council is facing a rapidly changing financial future that can only be met by strong corporate management.
To ensure dynamic leadership and oversee necessary improvements to the council’s governance, changes are needed to the current senior management structure.
His document proposes changes that “will offer additional strategic leadership capacity in addition to providing support to members and the chief executive to lead and deliver the council’s improvement plan.”
The trio of new Strategic Directors will be well paid for their efforts – the salary range is between £109,626 and £121,807.
The wages have been benchmarked against comparable levels elsewhere in the region and the posts will be funded from savings made from the next stage of the senior management review.
The three will have separate roles and responsibility for: 1) Families and wellbeing 2) Transformation and resources 3) Regeneration and environment.
But while the proposed structure involves changes to the make-up of departments, it is not proposed that any posts are deleted at this time.
However, writes Mr Burgess, as a matter of urgency further senior management restructuring will follow.
This second tier of changes will be aimed at "delayering" the organisation, making financial savings, and improving accountability and communication. The new strategic directors will assist in reviewing and restructuring process of senior management.
Mr Burgess told the Globe today: "These new posts will play a vital role in transforming the authority by providing additional strategic leadership capacity and helping to lead and deliver the council’s Improvement Plan.
“There will be no additional cost to the council taxpayer if the recommendations are agreed as costs associated with the posts will be recovered in the coming months by restructuring at a chief officer and senior management level.”
Not everyone is convinced the two-stage piecemeal approach is the correct way forward.
Former Lib Dem leader Cllr Stuart Kelly is instead urging cabinet to go for a more radical restructuring rather than agree to the approach proposed Mr Burgess.
He said: “The management of Wirral Council needs to be improved and structured in a more joined up manner – that’s a fact.
“I have been arguing this for some time, for me this is unfinished business.
“The mistake made in previous reorganisations, and being repeated now, is the lack of a complete overview from chief executive through to the front line.
“We need to see what the proposed organisation looks like, how it all fits together, how staff fit in, and how it will enhance and not diminish the services on offer to the public.
“We need to see whether it reflects people's priorities rather than being self-serving and insular.
“What is proposed is piecemeal with three new Strategic Director posts at an additional cost of £365,421 and no indication of what will follow and how the new posts fit in to a refreshed organisation.
“I also think that it is crass in the extreme to be advertising for posts on an interim basis while a number of very senior officers remain suspended.
“Natural justice would suggest that their positions need to be clarified first."
Councillor Kelly concluded: "I urge the cabinet to work up a radical overall organisational restructure and take that out to consultation and in the meanwhile they need to get on with the process involving the suspended officers."
Currently suspended from work are the council’s highways and technical services director David Green, head of law and HR Bill Norman, director of finance Ian Coleman and deputy director of finance David Taylor-Smith.
Council leader Cllr Phil Davies said: "Strong, corporate management is essential if we are to rise to the challenges facing the council.
"To create the kind of local authority that we and residents want Wirral to be, a different approach is needed.
"I am fully supportive of these proposals, which will help to break down departmental silos and support the new chief executive and members to move the council forward without burdening taxpayers with additional costs.”