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Local man for local job!

PUBLISHED: 09:13 24 June 2005 | UPDATED: 05:57 02 March 2010

I WOULD love to have been a fly on the wall when the merits of the different candidates for chief executive of Suffolk Coastal Council were considered.

I WOULD love to have been a fly on the wall when the merits of the different candidates for chief executive of Suffolk Coastal Council were considered.

In appointing Steve Baker, Suffolk Coastal would appear to have made the best possible choice.

He spent 20 years at Ipswich council, during which time he rose to the position of assistant chief executive, and won a fine reputation from both councillors and his fellow officers.

For the last three years he's been the top man at East Northamptonshire council, based at Thrapston just to the west of Peterborough.

But for all his acheivements there - and I understand he did his reputation no harm at all - I can't help feeling that the fact he's a Suffolk lad was the single most important factor in clinching him the job at Woodbridge.

Councillors at Suffolk Coastal have been bruised by the decision of current chief Jan Ormondroyd to take the job as deputy chief executive of Hull City Council.

Ms Ormondroyd is from the north of England, Hull is a much larger council than Suffolk Coastal, and it is a council with major problems.

But many people within the world of local government are perplexed why someone who is currently a chief executive is taking a step down the career ladder - and after only nine months in what looks like one of the plum jobs in local government.

One senior council officer in Suffolk told me: “The chief executive of Suffolk Coastal is the best local government job you can get.

“You're running the local authority in one of the most attractive parts of the country, but it's not remote - you're only an hour and a half from London.

“You've got planning issues with honeypot villages, but also industrial issues at Felixstowe and the most modern nuclear power plant in the country.

“And by all accounts the councillors are a pretty competent lot who only interfere when they feel they have to.”

Which brings me back to Mr Baker. I have no doubt that he is the right person for the right job.

But I do wonder if the fact that his Suffolk roots run deep were the first thing the councillors at Woodbridge looked at.

They must have been determined that they weren't going to go on a search for another chief executive in six months' time.

Mr Baker knows the council and must be looking forward to returning “home.”

He's now got a fantastic job - and it's difficult to imagine him wanting to jump ship anywhere else.

But I imagine the councillors at Woodbridge would get a bit nervous if James Hehir were to seek pastures new away from his job as chief executive of Ipswich council!

LABOUR councillors at Endeavour House are struggling to get to grips with their new role in opposition as the Conservatives start to put their mark on the council.

They are now jumping up and down about the Tories' proposal to cut £250,000 from locality budgets in Suffolk - they are the budgets which allow individual councillors to spend money in their own divisions.

Frankly I'd find their protests more understandable if so many of them hadn't squirrelled their money away over the years, only to spend it in the run-up to the election.

This was a tactic employed by councillors from all sides - and frankly looked very odd to the poor, simple voters.

The opposition might protest about the cutbacks to the locality budgets - but I'm not sure that the new administration hasn't judged the mood of the public rather well in this case.


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