County leader defends chief exec's pay

As the row over Andrea Hill's £220,000 salary continues to rumble on, Suffolk's leader Jeremy Pembroke today comes out fighting to justify her pay packet and the work of the Endeavour House authority.

As the row over Andrea Hill's £220,000 salary continues to rumble on, Suffolk's leader Jeremy Pembroke today comes out fighting to justify her pay packet and the work of the Endeavour House authority.

He spoke to PAUL GEATER to put the authority's side of the argument.

SUFFOLK may have come under fire from all sides for the expensive appointment of Andrea Hill as new chief executive, but her new boss Jeremy Pembroke is in no mood to apologise for the appointment.

In a phrase that has become familiar during the debate, he remains quick to defend the appointment . . . and salary.

“Suffolk deserves the best and needs the best at this uncertain time,” he said. “That is the salary that we have to pay for the best chief executive and I remain confident it is money well spent.”

Mr Pembroke insisted that the salary is not out of kilter with that paid by other county councils both in this region and across the country.

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“When you look at the figures and the entire packages involved, this salary is not out of step with other county councils,” he insisted.

“This is a very large organisation and there are very major changes coming up over the next few years, whatever the government decides to do with local authorities.”

The government is due to announce on Monday its ideas for the future of local government in Suffolk and Norfolk.

It seems certain it will attempt to introduce single-tier councils across the region, controlling every service from rubbish collection and granting planning permission through to running schools, libraries, and social services.

Monday (7 July) will be the first indication from the government on whether it is considering having a single county-wide authority - the county's favoured “One Suffolk” option - or splitting it into three: East, West, and Greater Ipswich.

Mr Pembroke said it was vital to have a chief executive to steer the county through the changes which will be brought in during the next two years.

“Whatever happens, things aren't going to remain as they are. There are going to be big changes in Suffolk and we have to have someone at the top who can manage those changes,” he said.

“It was vital that we have a full-time chief executive who is a proven change-manager, and no one has a better record of that than Andrea Hill.”

He dismissed suggestions that her salary should have been nearer that of her predecessor's £150,000 a year because her job at Bedfordshire County Council was coming to an end when that authority is dismantled next year.

“There were still major changes to be worked on there and when Bedfordshire is no more there will still be successor authorities,” Mr Pembroke said.

“A chief executive of Andrea Hill's proven ability would have no difficulty in finding a new position.”

For that reason he feels Suffolk's council taxpayers should have no fear about being saddled with a huge redundancy pay-out on reorganisation.

“When the final decision on the shape of Suffolk is decided there will still be councils needing a top-quality chief executive to guide them through those changes.

“Given that fact, there is no reason why Mrs Hill should have any problems if she wants to stay on in Suffolk.”