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Grievance Procedure Launched Against Council’s Chief Executive

Published on: 1 Jul, 2013
Updated on: 1 Jul, 2013
David Hill centre with a bugler and the Mayor, Cllr Lockyer Nibbs, on the balcony of the Guildhall during the commemoration of Armed Forces Day.

David Hill (centre) with a bugler and the Mayor of Guildford, Cllr Diana Lockyer-Nibbs, on the balcony of the Guildhall on Armed Forces Day (Jun 24).

Guildford’s chief executive, David Hill, is facing a grievance procedure initiated by the borough council. The procedure follows a complaint and the case will be investigated by an independent assessor.

His attendance at Millmead over the last week or so is understood to have been irregular with at least one period of sick leave and several days working from home before he took annual leave. He is now said to be on sick leave again.

A council spokesperson said she could confirm that he had not been suspended.

David Hill as the acting returning officer during the Worplesdon.

David Hill as the acting returning officer during the Worplesdon by-election last year.

Mr Hill has overseen several rounds of difficult cost reduction measures at the borough council, including staff redundancies, some felt successfully. During his tenure, there have also been several controversial staff suspensions, including that, in March last year, of a strategic director, Jim Miles, together with his wife Elaine, a council legal officer.

After the Guildford Dragon NEWS broke the story, legal action was threatened in a letter signed by all three party leaders, two of whom, David Goodwin (Liberal Democrats), and Angela Gunning (Labour), quickly withdrew their support when they learnt that David Hill, had not made them aware that publisher/editor Martin Giles had, in fact, written to him to check the facts of the story prior to publication.

A year ago, in an unprecedented initiative, seven honorary aldermen wrote to the council leader and members of the Executive expressing their concern about morale among council workers. They suggested: “… an independent person be engaged by the Executive to investigate the management of the council and report back”; this was not done.

Eight months ago, two officers were suspended from the Electric Theatre. Despite the council saying, at the time, that the investigation should take just weeks no resolution has yet been announced.

Tensions between the chief executive and some councillors have been suspected for some time. In March, council leader Stephen Mansbridge announced, at a public council meeting, Mr Hill’s performance targets. Some observers concluded that a marker was being placed and that the chief executive’s future at Guildford might be uncertain.

Mr Hill still resides in Oxfordshire despite expectation, at the time of his appointment, that he would move to live within the borough of Guildford.

The GBC website’s section on its CEO states: “The Chief Executive is the senior officer who leads and takes responsibility for the work of the Council… The role of Chief Executive is complex and David is responsible for managing the expenditure of almost £170 million of public funds, serving 60,000 households and 135,000 people in the borough.

“As head of the paid service of the Council’s employed staff, the Chief Executive is a non-political post. Whilst the elected councillors provide the policies, Council-paid employees put them into practice. The Chief Executive is responsible to, and accountable to, the leader of the Council and the other elected councillors to deliver their political and policy objectives.

“The role of Chief Executive has a maximum salary of £125,912, which has remained the same since 2008, with no personal increases.

“David’s salary is £123,183 a year, with a lump sum of £1,642 as payment in lieu of expenses, a yearly lease car allowance of £5,340 and medical cover at a cost of £600.”

In November last year, Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities, was reported by The Guardian newspaper to be urging councils to abolish the role of chief executive all together or to try and merge the post across councils.

Mr Pickles was also due to be introducing measures that would make it easier to dismiss highly paid but incompetent chief executives without excessive payoffs.

He said: “A town hall chief executive costs a lot of money, but if they are simply not up to the job, councillors must be able to get rid of them quick-smart without having to throw away thousands in parachute payoffs.”

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test 6 Responses to Grievance Procedure Launched Against Council’s Chief Executive

  1. Gordon Bridger Reply

    July 1, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    When the seven Honorary Aldermen broke with tradition and asked the council to carry out an investigation into the causes of desperate low morale we were ignored by the Executive at the time and criticised by many for “interfering” in council matters. A change of Executive brought about by planning blunders brought in a much better regime, the members of which will no doubt question, as many other councils have done, whether we need or can afford a chief executive post.

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    July 1, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Following on from my fellow Alderman’s comment.

    Why do we need or can afford to pay for 48 Borough Councillors when only eight make policy?

    Surely one per ward would suffice

    I also did not realise that county councillors could avail themselves of a pension scheme.

    Who picks up the ‘tab’ for that?

    No doubt the hard pressed council tax payers contribute in some way.

  3. C Stevens Reply

    July 1, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Whatever the “complaint” giving rise to the grievance is, let’s know about it as soon as possible.

    Now is not the time for confidentiality agreements or delay. If there’s a problem and public money is at stake, the public is entitled to know what’s going on.

    Anyone who thinks differently should learn from Hillsborough, Stafford and the CQC or be prepared to live with the consequences of a failure to do that.

  4. Derek Corden Reply

    July 3, 2013 at 9:18 am

    A grievance procedure could be minor or it could be serious; but why should it be decided in public? What happened to innocent before guilty? Let the trusted and elected members deal with it and if it turns out to have been serious then we ought to know then.

    If not, the Chief Exec needs a platform to carry on with his job. Some (e.g Gordon Bridger)are questioning the need for a CEO. As it is Wimbledon week; are you serious?

    His salary is a drop in the ocean compared to the £170m spend. A good CEO will make up his salary ten times over; but a bad one will cost a small fortune. That is not down to the role but the choice of person to fill it.

  5. Jim Allen Reply

    July 3, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    In reply to Mr Parke’s suggestion of one councillor per ward and some councillors not pulling their weight, I would like to strongly defend both Burpham councillors who work extremely hard for the community on what is, fundamentally, a voluntary basis with expenses. I see a lot of the background work they do. If we only had one, then only half the work would get done!

  6. Bernard Parke Reply

    July 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Mr Allen has twisted my words.

    Readers should read my comment as it is written. It is made based on my experience of over fifty years in national and local politics which included candidate selection.

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