Salary report comes under scrutiny

, the District Auditor called for improvements to the recruitment and appointments process to comply with the county's policies and procedures.He also came in for questioning from committee members keen to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

COUNTY chiefs will make a series of changes to their recruitment process following a report by watchdogs over the controversial appointment of £220,000 chief executive Andrea Hill.

A probe was launched amid huge public outcry at the size of the salary, £70,000 more than previous chief executive Mike More earned, and concerns that rules had been broken in the way the package was beefed up.

In a report that went before Suffolk County Council's audit committee yesterday, the District Auditor called for improvements to the recruitment and appointments process to comply with the county's policies and procedures.

He also came in for questioning from committee members keen to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

Speaking at the meeting District Auditor Robert Davies said he felt the council had not acted unlawfully during the process but he found a number of deficiencies that need to be rectified.

He said: “In my view the areas for improvement I identify do not mean the process was fundamentally flawed or unlawful.

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“Only a court can ultimately decide whether something is unlawful but in my view that is not a course that should be initiated.

“The potential costs would outweigh the potential benefits and I have taken this into account when coming to my view.”

He added there were areas for improvement.

“The process could have been better run with better information provided at times,” he said.

“As a result of the policies the council followed and the deficiencies identified, it makes it difficult for the council to demonstrate value for money was given sufficient consideration.

Mr Davies said it was not his place to rule on the salary awarded to Mrs Hill but, in his opinion, it did not appear unreasonable when compared with similar posts at other authorities.

Kevan Lim, deputy leader of the Labour group, speaking at the meeting, described the situation as “the most incompetent use of taxpayers' money” he had seen in his life.

He said: “The council is almost ignoring this report in terms of its response by pretending everything is fine and there were just a few minor deficiencies when that is not the case.

“There is enough in this report to say council rules were broken.”

Tory councillor Charles Michell said: “Although there were deficiencies here, it did not mean there was a fundamental breach of any of the policies of the council.”

Councillors voted to accept the report and put in place the recommendations made with progress set to be reviewed in three months' time.