Suffolk wrong to choose new chief

ANDREA Hill is clearly a very talented chief executive with a proven track record behind her.But her appointment as new head of Suffolk County Council looks like the latest blunder in a serious of bad mistakes to have come from Endeavour House.

ANDREA Hill is clearly a very talented chief executive with a proven track record behind her.

But her appointment as new head of Suffolk County Council looks like the latest blunder in a serious of bad mistakes to have come from Endeavour House.

It is a blunder that will cost council taxpayers dear - and a blunder that could and should have been avoided by an authority which is proud to hail its credentials as a high-performing county.

Mrs Hill brings with her a reputation as a forceful, some even say confrontational, leader - she is not someone who is content to stay in the background and do what her councillors tell her.

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One councillor in Bedfordshire described her as: “A very talented change manager.”

That is what you need if you are, like Bedfordshire when she arrived, an authority which needs change. At that time the county had no stars in the government's ratings. She leaves a three-star county which most people see as being on the up.

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But you don't achieve that level of change and success in just over three short years without banging a few heads together.

And banging heads together has never been the Suffolk style - and as the county has four stars from the government already, is it really what it needs now?

With the future of the county council being very much up in the air - few people expect the current organisation to survive the next round of local government reform - was it really necessary to appoint anyone as chief executive of a successful organisation which might only survive for another two years?

Given that the priority of Suffolk County Council ought to be continuing to provide services to the people it serves while the government looks at the future of local authorities in East Anglia, it would have made much more sense to appoint a stand-in chief from within the organisation for the time being.

Someone like Graham Dixon who could keep the ship on an even keel while its future shape became clear - and he would not have cost an extra £220,000 a year!

What worries me is that Mrs Hill's appointment, given her track record, will leave the very good staff at Endeavour House chasing their tails in a desperate attempt to introduce a level of change that is not needed and not desirable.

You could also end up with yet further friction between the county and borough councils - friction that will do absolutely no good for the average council taxpayer, even if it makes the participants feel more macho!

One last word. If ever you meet Mrs Hill, please don't ever call her Andrea (as in Maclean, the TV weather presenter). Her name is pronounced On-dreya - and I'm told if you get it wrong you'll get a similar reaction as that from Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet).

ONE of the most familiar faces on the benches at Ipswich council will be leaving the borough at May's elections.

Donny Edwards has been a member of the council for 29 years and was mayor in 2000/2001, stepping in as first citizen after the original choice, Richard Risebrow, surprisingly lost his seat.

Mr Edwards thoroughly enjoyed his time as mayor - although the highlight came in his first fortnight when he represented the town at Wembley as the Tractor Boys ploughed up Barnsley to claim a place in the Premiership.

He's never been a rentaquote on the council benches - but when he spoke people always listened because he was really clued in to the feeling in the town.

His departure is the end of an era for the borough - many people across the political spectrum will wish him a long and happy retirement.

I CANNOT imagine how dreadful Kerry Nicol and the families of all the victims of Steve Wright must feel now - and it is a pain that can never go away.

But I don't agree with her call this week for the restoration of the death penalty. It is a form of punishment whose time has passed and will realistically never be reintroduced.

There is no doubt that Wright was guilty of killing the five women - his excuse was pathetic and the jury saw right through it.

However, there are occasions when people have been convicted of murder and subsequently found innocent - like the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four.

And as long as that can happen we can never contemplate a return to capital punishment.

There are some people, like Steve Wright, who should never be freed - but state-sanctioned killing is totally unacceptable and has no place in 21st century government.

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