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Conservative Councillor Says New Joint Chief Executive Appointment Process ‘Stinks’

Published on: 2 Nov, 2021
Updated on: 2 Nov, 2021

Tom Horwood (right – image courtesy Farnham Herald) has been confirmed as the new joint CEO next Monday. GBC’s existing managing director James Whiteman (left) did not apply for the role.

By Emily Coady Stemp

A new chief executive on a salary of £150,000 to head Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils was confirmed last night, but not without controversy.

The two separate council meetings heard overwhelming support for Tom Horwood, while many Guildford councillors also thanked James Whiteman, who will be taking redundancy from the role of managing director at Guildford.

Conservative councillors voiced doubts at both meetings over the timescale of the decision making process, which was first talked about in February this year, of additional strains on staff, and of the hiring process.

The money-saving exercise has been billed as a way for the councils to save money in the long term in order to protect front line services.

The votes passed with 32 in favour, eight against and three abstentions at Guildford, and 28 in favour, two against and 14 abstentions at the Waverley meeting.

Cllr Keith Witham

At the Guildford meeting, Cllr Keith Witham (Con, Pirbright) said: “This appointment that we are being asked to rubber-stamp this evening stinks. The process stinks, only one candidate has been considered no one else was allowed to apply for the job except for the managing director of Guildford Borough Council and that individual is being made redundant.”

He mentioned the sum of £170,000, referring to the published annual report and accounts which show the salary package for the incumbent managing director. But The Dragon understands that the whole redundancy package is much larger as it includes pension liability costs.

As part of the package, Mr Whiteman is believed to be receiving a redundancy payment substantially more than £100,000.

Cllr Witham said the public would not know the “eye-watering” amount given in redundancy payments because the decision was taken in secret at the last council meeting.

He added: “The whole misguided process will not actually save any money for at least five years. So no openness, no transparency, a waste of money and only one candidate considered. In my opinion, ‘it stinks’ about sums it up.”

Cllr Liz Hogger

Cllr Hogger (Lib Dem, Effingham) said she was “immensely sad” about the loss of James Whiteman as managing director, who has been with the council since before her election to council.

She said: “Throughout that time he has been a tower of strength to all councillors in his advice and support and his wisdom in dealing with some very difficult issues down the years from all parts of the council.

“I am very very sad that James is going but I hope he will have a wonderful future. The joint council proposal is the obvious way to go and I think we can do great things together.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Guildford Borough Council Leader Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch) said that the legal and HR advice is to go to the incumbents first when making roles redundant.

He said: “I think personally an incumbent had a higher bar because you are comparing them against the unknowns of the market and that is potentially a much deeper pool.

“I am comfortable with the appointment. We did not have the freedom to have an open competition alongside Tom and James, however desirable that may or may not have been.  I am confident we followed the process and I am confident we have got a very good candidate.”

Cllr Paul Follows

Speaking after the vote had been carried out, Waverley Borough Council leader Cllr Paul Follows (Lib Dem, Godalming Central and Ockford) said: “Once again we hear this fixation on process and this continued critique of councillors who are trying to save money, as Conservative central government continues to starve local government of funding.

“As ever, no new ideas, no alternatives, no plan. Just critique of those who are trying to do right by residents in the face of significant structural changes.”

Cllr Stephen Mulliner (Con, Haslemere East and Grayswood) said during the debate at the Waverley meeting: “Strong leadership and good staff management are always important and doubling a senior manager’s workloads carries the risk of significant staff turmoil and turnover.”

He said he was concerned the changes could lead to the use of more agency staff which could lead to increased costs.

He continued: “Such a headlong and ill-considered process for perhaps the most important decision this council has ever taken in its lifetime makes a mockery of the scrutiny process.”

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Responses to Conservative Councillor Says New Joint Chief Executive Appointment Process ‘Stinks’

  1. N Hiscock Reply

    November 5, 2021 at 8:58 am

    Even by the non-existent standards of Guildford, this is beyond disgusting. Absolutely shameful.

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