Questions answered over Thurrock affair

CONTROVERSY seems to dog Suffolk's highly paid chief executive - and her decision to work at Thurrock half a day a month of her working time is no exception.

Political correspondent>

CONTROVERSY seems to dog Suffolk's highly paid chief executive - and her decision to work at Thurrock half a day a month of her working time is no exception.

When she was appointed 12 months ago, she promised to devote all her energies to the county council at a time when its very future was threatened in a review of local government in Suffolk.

But as previously revealed by The Evening Star, Mrs Hill, who earns �218,000 a year has been using some of her time to work for Thurrock council instead.

Thurrock is acknowledged to be a “failing council.” It is one of the least efficient unitary authorities in the countries, and the government initiated a project for experts from other local authorities in the East of England to volunteer some of their time in order to turn around the performance of the Essex council.

Mrs Hill, whose career includes a spell as chief executive of Colchester borough council, is recognised as one of the top practitioners of local government administration.

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When asked to give some of her time, Mrs Hill received clearance from council leader Jeremy Pembroke, even though it deprives Suffolk council tax payers of her services for half a day a week.

Mr Pembroke saw it as an ideal opportunity to give further publicity to Suffolk, which is one of the top-rated county councils in England in the Audit Commission's annual survey.

He said: “We are proud of the quality of our services and I was pleased that this has been recognised through the invitation to help out Thurrock council.

“The executive continually works over her contracted hours a month, so we are not losing any of her time when she goes to Thurrock.

To clarify the situation, the Evening Star posed ten questions to the county council. Here they are, along with the answers.

n. Do you think Andrea Hill should be working with another council? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Q: Whose idea was it that Mrs Hill should work one day a week for Thurrock council?

A: The proposal for Andrea Hill to work directly with Thurrock came from Improvement East. (Andrea spends about � day per month in Thurrock not one day a week. As a four star authority, Suffolk County Council is committed to sharing best practice in local government, and in common with many councils, our chief executive is part of a regional improvement board, (Improvement East) one of nine across the country. This board works with other councils in the East of England to provide support and to ensure that local government works collaboratively to improve the services offered.

Q: Who sanctioned it?

A: Andrea's involvement was agreed by Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk county council. It was also discussed by the council's cabinet members.

Q: What relevance is the claimed 70 hours a week to the decision?

Q: Why is she not committing 100% of her efforts on Suffolk?

A: Response to Qs 3&4 - This is a temporary arrangement which Andrea carries out in her own time.

Her first priority is to her work at the council and to the people of Suffolk. Any time spent at Thurrock during office hours is more than made up by the extra hours Andrea works for Suffolk over her contracted hours.

Q: Is the salary for her work in Thurrock being repaid to Suffolk? If not why not?

A: There is no salary attached to Andrea Hill's work with Thurrock. It is voluntary work.

Q: Are there any expenses being claimed for the journey to and from Thurrock and have any expenses been claimed by Mrs Hill either in Thurrock or in Suffolk in relation to her work there?

A: There are no expenses claimed by Andrea Hill either in SCC or Thurrock for this work.

Q: 7. What relevance is the Thurrock job to the people of Suffolk particularly in light of Mrs Hill's previous job at a unitary authority?

A: Andrea Hill's involvement in Thurrock and, in particular Improvement East, provides Suffolk with a greater platform for influencing central government. Improvement East has provided councils in Suffolk with additional support. For example, it has provided additional funding to Waveney District Council of around �1.18 million to assist with an improvement programme.

8. Was the fact that she would be working for Thurrock raised in any forum or cabinet discussion?

Repeat question - answered in question 2 above.

9. What other jobs has the chief executive taken up previously while working for and being paid by Suffolk?

None.

10. What other jobs is she doing now or are there more in the pipeline?

Q: No and none.

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