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Austerity off the agenda as Dudley Council signs £165k chief executive

Austerity off the agenda as Dudley Council signs £165k chief executive

🕔27.Oct 2014

These are hard times for town halls, possibly even ‘the end of local government as we know it,’ but the age of austerity hasn’t stopped Dudley Council from appointing a new chief executive on a salary that most of us could only dream.

Sarah Norman will be paid £165,000 a year when she takes up her position in the New Year.

That’s comfortably more than the £142,500 David Cameron picks up and not far short of the £180,000 paid to Mark Rogers, chief executive of Birmingham city council.

Mrs Norman’s pay packet, somewhat ironically, also exceeds the £149,000 salary paid to Robert Chote, chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Mr Rogers might try to justify his salary by explaining that he is in charge of Europe’s largest local authority, and some would argue that given Birmingham’s problems he deserves every penny if he can turn the council around.

Dudley, though, can hardly mount a salary justification challenge on the grounds of size.

With a population of 307,000, it is only the 27th largest council in Britain.

Ms Norman’s wage hardly reflects the ‘austerity’ line on public sector salaries taken by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who in January declared:We have shrunk the Civil Service by 15 per cent since the 2010 General Election and it’s now at its smallest since World War Two.

“There are a fifth fewer people earning over £150,000 and over 250 fewer quangos than there were under Labour. It’s these sort of tough decisions which helped us save hard-working taxpayers £10 billion last year but there’s so much more that we need to do.”

Figures released by Mr Maude showed that 234 high earners in Whitehall and the quangos are paid more than the prime minister.

Ms Norman, a career public servant, won’t have to move very far to take up her new role.

She is currently Strategic Director for Community at Wolverhampton City Council and has more than 30 years of public service experience.

She will replace the current chief executive John Polychronakis who is retiring from the authority after almost 40 years working in local government. Mr Polychronakis was paid £157,000 a year.

One of Ms Norman’s first tasks at Dudley will be to get rid of several of her new colleagues.

She has been told to save £1 million by reducing senior management posts from 22 to 11 in a move that the council insists will give Dudley “the leanest management structure in the country”.

Council leaders say one of the key roles of the new chief executive will be to build on the proposals to create a combined authority in the West Midlands to bring in more money and powers from central government.

David Sparks, the leader of Dudley Council, said: “I am delighted to be able to recommend Sarah to the authority and look forward to working with her to drive through fundamental change. As well as driving a fundamental restructuring of the council, she will be specifically tasked to build external partnerships as we move towards a combined authority.

“These are challenging times for any local authority, but I believe this appointment will help keep us ahead of the curve and take us from a good local authority to a national leader in local government.”

Ms Norman said: “I’m delighted to have been offered this exciting new challenge. I’m really looking forward to working with a new team of colleagues at Dudley Council and to serving the people of Dudley.”

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