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Judith Greenhalgh

Judith Greenhalgh, Denbishire

Consultants ditched in search for new Council CEO

A council has ditched consultants in its exacting search for a new boss, after its last CEO left to take a “career break for personal reasons”.

Judith Greenhalgh left her post as chief executive of Denbighshire council last month, after less than three years in the role.

She had been off for at least two months following a stormy meeting at County Hall, Ruthin, in which council leader Cllr Hugh Evans criticised a lack of information sharing between the cabinet and council bosses.

That came after the council’s cabinet only found out about alleged data breaches surrounding Covid vaccinations from local media reports.

The plan for appointing a successor for the £132,000-a-year job, the second highest paid role among council chief executives in North Wales, has been worked out and was presented to councillors at their AGM on Tuesday.

Whoever does get the position will face an exacting examination of their character, including interviews with staff, practical tests, a presentation and a question and answer session with councillors.

Their social media accounts will be trawled through too, just in case there’s anything lurking in the background which might cause embarrassment.

Cllr Evans said the current measures, with corporate directors Graham Boase and Nicola Stubbins assuming the CEO’s responsibilities, was “working well and communication was good with the senior leadership team and all members”.

He added: “There’s good dialogue on the important issues and nothing’s been missed.”

Head of legal, HR and democratic services Gary Williams explained there had been a workshop regarding the recruitment process and council needed to give approval to advertise the role, agree the salary and rubber-stamp the new recruitment process.

Officer Catrin Roberts explained how they would be whittling down the candidates.

She said: “Previously we’ve used consultants to undertake all or part of the process.

“However we feel with some changes we can manage that internally, with the assistance of the communications and marketing team.”

A tailor-made application form will ask competency-based questions and all applicants will have to write a report on a pre-set topic to help the council shortlist candidates.

They will also be asked to provide a 1,500 word supporting statement to go with their application.

The authority will now be asking for a three references, as opposed to the two asked for before, with one being a curent employer.

Also “there would be an expectation” the council leader and head of legal services would have a 30-minute discussion with the successful applicant’s current employer about the candidate.

Ms Williams added: “We’ve also suggested we do research on a candidate’s online presence, such as social media, their current employer’s website, webcasts, etc.

“This will be done in a very controlled manner by HR and report presented to the special appointments panel to consider.”

Applicants will have to attend an assessment centre, with “challenging asswessments based on more real life scenarios”.

They will be carried out by a number of different groups, including councillors and staff.

She continued: “The successful candidates will be expected to do a 15-minute presentation to full council, based on themselves, their background and their motivation in applying for the role.

“There will then be a 30-minutes discussion with each candidate and members of full council.”

Councillors agreed to start the search for a new chief executive and approved the salary, recruitment pack and process.

The council is aiming to start the exercise at the beginning of June and conclude all assessments by approximately July 22.

Performance of the new chief executive will be monitored by a politically balanced five-person panel for the first six months, with regular monitoring at 12, 18 and 24 months into the role.

As well as being the head of the paid service at Denbighshire council, the new appointee will also become the returning officer for Denbighshire and the county’s electoral registration officer.

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