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Guildford Set to Agree £920 Per Day for Shared Interim Finance Chief

Published on: 30 Aug, 2023
Updated on: 1 Sep, 2023

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

An interim finance chief will come at a cost of more than £900 per day for a shared role at two Surrey councils, one of them at risk of declaring effective bankruptcy.

Guildford Borough Council has been sharing senior staff with Waverley Borough Council since 2021 as a way to save money.

With the executive head of finance due to leave on September 3, a replacement was needed.

A full meeting of Guildford’s council is set to approve the appointment of Richard Bates as interim Section 151 officer, a position councils must legally appoint to oversee their finances, at a meeting on Wednesday (August 30).

It comes after a search for a replacement was carried out with two external recruitment agencies.

Meeting documents show he was appointed to the interim role of executive head of finance on July 17.

But because of the role-sharing arrangements between the two councils, a recommendation was required from a joint appointments committee as well as approval from both councils.

The documents said Mr Bates had been provided by Hays Specialist Recruitment Ltd for the interim role on a daily client rate of £927.68.

Guildford Borough Council did not confirm the total amount to be paid over the six months of the interim contract, but it could be more than £100,000.

The borough council said the total amount paid would depend on the amount of time Mr Bates takes on leave, which he would not be paid for.

A Guildford spokesperson said arrangements for a permanent replacement had started once they had written notice that the current post holder was leaving.

They added: “Given the recruitment time required, plus an expected three months’ notice given to a current employer, it was apparent that an interim S151 officer was required for six months to fill the gap and meet legal requirements.

“Several other officers were interviewed with similar daily rate expectations from their agencies, reflecting market rate.”

At a Waverley council meeting on Tuesday (August 29), councillors raised concerns about how the workload would be split between the two councils, given the financial issues facing GBC.

Officers at Guildford have warned the council could be close to declaring itself bankrupt.

Waverley’s councillors approved the appointment with 39 councillors voting for, and five not voting.

A spokesperson for Guildford said costs for shared roles were split between the two councils.

They added: “It would be unusual for an organisation with financial challenges not to have a suitably qualified chief finance officer.

“A campaign for a permanent recruitment is underway.”

According to the information given to councillors, Mr Bates is a qualified accountant and has held the role of S151 officer role at other local authorities.

An extraordinary meeting of GBC’s full council is due to be held tonight at 7pm at Millmead to decide on the continuance of the Weyside Urban Village scheme in light of GBC’s financial position.

The report to be debated can be found here but the appendices on: financial information; reappraised financial position of WUV with mitigation; sensitivity analysis on key assumptions; table of 10 main risks from current WUV risk-register; proposed mitigation strategy; and legal opinion, have been deemed exempt from publication.

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Responses to Guildford Set to Agree £920 Per Day for Shared Interim Finance Chief

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    August 30, 2023 at 6:18 pm

    That’s over £200,000 per annum Guildford cannot afford that. As a council taxpayer, I do not approve of this appointment and suggest GBC thinks again. It should be possible to recruit for half this, so £50k per council.

    Residents have had more than enough of this gravy train GBC has become.

    • Glenn Scott Reply

      September 24, 2023 at 2:00 pm

      Hear hear! A complete and total outrage.

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