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Breckland Council leader rejects accusation he 'misled' members over senior officer appointment

A council leader has been questioned on whether he had “misled” the authority over the appointment of a former chief executive at an organisation with a “significant bullying problem”.

Breckland Council appointed ex-West Sussex County Council chief executive Nathan Elvery as its temporary head of paid service last month.

He left that role last November after a report found “systemic failures” in the childrens’ services department and highlighted a “significant bullying problem” at the “very top of the organisation”. He received a £265,000 payout – the equivalent of six months pay.

Breckland Council logo. (43052632)
Breckland Council logo. (43052632)

During a special full council meeting last month, the council voted to confirm Mr Elvery’s appointment after being told by council leader Sam Chapman-Allen that he would do “no direct line management”.

But speaking during the authority’s latest meeting on Thursday, November 5, Green Party councillor Timothy Birt questioned Mr Chapman-Allen on the issue.

He said: “You claim that the temporary head of paid service would have no line management responsibilities.

“But that may not be strictly correct, because the head of paid service is ultimately the person who hires and fires the executives of this council – which surely is a line management responsibility.

“I wonder whether you may have slightly misled this council at that October 8 meeting?”

But the Conservative council leader defended both his remarks and Mr Elvery’s appointment, adding: “In relation to direct line management responsibilities, I’m afraid you are incorrect.

“It is not the role of the head of paid service or the chief executive to undertake the hiring and firing of chief officers of this council – that falls to a joint appointments panel to make that final decision if we are firing or hiring any of those individuals.

“In relation to other staff within the authority, that goes through the appropriate channels with their line manager and the head of HR supporting them through that process.

“So I am confident that unless anything has changed in the preceding three weeks that the appointment of the head of paid service still has no direct line management responsibilities.”

Mr Birt also queried whether the role must be held by an officer of the council, but was told there was no “advice to the contrary”.

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