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Councils Expected to Approve Appointment of Joint Permanent Chief Financial Officer

Published on: 16 Apr, 2024
Updated on: 16 Apr, 2024

Richard Bates

By Martin Giles

A new joint chief financial officer for Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils is expected to be confirmed by GBC this evening (April 16) and WBC on April 23.

According to GBC agenda papers for its extraordinary full council meeting, Richard Bates, who has been the interim executive head of finance at both authorities since July 2023, was interviewed for the permanent role on April 12.

He has been in post during the period when a risk of effectively declaring the council bankrupt by issuing a Section 114 notice has been averted and the discovery of an up to £18 million overspend on housing maintenance contracts was discovered leading to a police fraud investigation.

Although an advert for the post on the Jobs Go Public site was viewed 464 times with further information sought on 118 occasions only one application was received, which was from Mr Bates.

Under the collaboration agreement between the two councils, the cost of employing the new permanent CEO will be split equally between the two councils, but Waverley will be the “employing council”. The annual salary for a strategic director is £127,850. This is likely to be considerably less than he is currently earning as a contractor employed by GBC/WBC but comes with additional benefits including pension rights.

Local authority CFOs are also designated as “Section 151 officers”. Section 151 of the Local Government Act 1972 requires local authorities to make arrangements for the proper administration of their financial affairs and appoint a S151 Officer, also known as a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), to have responsibility for those arrangements.

The CFO must be professionally qualified, suitably experienced and take the lead on a local authority’s financial functions ensuring they are fit for purpose.

Alignment of GBC and WBC constitutions

New Council Procedure Rules are also expected to be agreed by both councils to “ensure that both Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils have adequate arrangements in place to deal with the conduct of business at council meetings in an effective and efficient manner that meets statutory requirements”.

According to the officer’s report: “Adoption of the new Council Procedure Rules will be a significant milestone in the process of aligning the constitutions of GBC and WBC where it is appropriate to do so.”

The proposal comes following Conservative and Labour councillors questioning the advisability of the collaboration between the two councils.

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