Two extra directors are set to be hired to the Vale of Glamorgan council with a cost of up to £140,000 each.
The proposed shake up of the senior leadership team at the council was given approval by councillors on Tuesday, September 28.
However concerns were raised about how the massive new wage bill was “inappropriate” at a time of council tax increases, new fees and charges, and service cuts.
Council bosses said the changes are needed to allow more of a focus on strategy and long term issues like the climate crisis or coronavirus, rather than just on day-to-day operations.
After consulting with staff, the council will hire two new directors and switch the role of managing director to chief executive.
The new director of place will “deliver the council’s strategic place shaping agenda”, help bid for extra funding and lead the response on climate change. The new director of corporate resources will be responsible for the council’s finances, lead on setting the budget and help “drive transformational change”.
The new directors will bring the number up from three directors currently to five. At the moment six heads of departments and the three directors report to the managing director. But under the changes only the five directors would report to the chief executive.
During the full council meeting when councillors approved the changes, council leader Neil Moore said: “These changes are necessary in order to carry out the functions of the authority to the best standards and to remain the best performing authority in Wales.
“Our management staff are exceptional, but in the last 18 months they’re now on the knees. We expect more and more from them, and the trouble is their capacity is getting reduced by the day. We’re not going to achieve anything new unless we have a strategy to go forward.
“The current managing director has too many reporting lines and it’s impossible, he works 24 hours a day. When he sleeps I don’t know.”
Cllr John Thomas, former Tory council leader, said: “Having sat in the leader’s seat for two years and worked alongside the managing director, I understand the pressures that are on the senior management team. With the new joint committees being proposed as well, this can only get worse. We do need to evolve.
“We have consistently been judged the best performing council in Wales, but things are moving forward and we need to move forward with them. It may be difficult to argue to some people the increase in the wage bill due to this, but it works out the actual increase as being 0.07 per cent of our budget. I’m sure we can quite easily get that back through improved performance as time goes on.”
The changes were suggested by an independent human resources consultant, commissioned by the council. Steve James told councillors the current managing director role is “spread too thin” and spends too much time “looking inward”.
He said: “The managing director role is currently spread very thin, and in my view too thin, and as a consequence spends far too much time looking inward and managing the organisation rather than externally and leading more strategically and playing that ambassadorial role rather than a managerial role.”
But the changes were criticised by Conservative councillors for the increased wage bill taxpayers would have to pay.
Cllr Vince Bailey said: “My concern with this is doing the right thing with taxpayers money. This council has consistently hiked council tax because funds are tight, is seeking to introduce parking charges to raise additional funds because funds are tight, we’re forcing residents to adhere to a piece of legislation that hasn’t been enforced in decades to sort out their dropped kerbs, again because funds are tight.
“I’ve been told that modest improvements to bus services, play parks and roads can’t be paid for because funds are tight. And yet here we have proposals which would cost more than a quarter of a million pounds to implement, just to make us ‘fit for purpose’.
“At a time of financial instability when residents are being asked to tighten their belts and pay ever increasing council tax bills to pay for services, it seems highly inappropriate to be pressing for two exceptionally well paid new council officers.”
Plaid Cymru backed the changes and dismissed the concerns over cost as “tawdry populism”. Cllr Ian Johnson said: “The Vale of Glamorgan council is an anchor institution, we have a £400 million annual turnover, we have 5,000 members of staff, and our senior leadership capacity is hugely important in delivering the correct services to the people of the Vale of Glamorgan. There has been too much internal focus and not enough opportunities taken externally.”
Another issue raised was the jargon used around the two new director roles. The HR consultant wrote a 22-page report justifying his suggestions to councillors. Independent Cllr Kevin Mahoney dismissed it as “22 pages of local authority-speak drivel”.
He said: “A document most people could have put together in a page and a half without the constant repetition of local authority speak and phrases that are alien to the outside world. All of a sudden we need to spend the best part of £300,000 on two more senior executives. The people of the Vale of Glamorgan would much rather see a dozen or bin men or women rather than two overpaid extra directors.
“It’s an insult to the people of Vale of Glamorgan who keep getting hit with council tax rises imposed by this administration, to suggest you’re going to create two jobs costing £280,000. Who came up with ‘director of place’? It doesn’t even make sense.”
After receiving approval from council, the next step is for existing staff to be consulted on the changes.