Guildford and Waverley Councils have appointed an Interim Chief Finance Officer.
Last night, Waverley councillors were asked to ratify a recommendation to appoint 55-year-old Richard Bates as a Section 151 Interim Executive Head of Finance, which an Interviewing Panel of both the Guildford & Waverley authorities had unanimously supported. The Group also included leaders of all opposition parties.
It follows the resignation of former Finance Officer Peter Vickers.
Waverley’s leader, Paul Follows, addressed an Extraordinary Council meeting on Tuesday seeking to confirm the appointment. The exact details of which would be considered in private.
However, much of the confidential information had already been revealed on social media. Not everyone was jubilant, including members of the ruling Liberal Democrat Group. Many councillors were sceptical that they were being asked to support the temporary post for a man who lives in Dorchester at a cost of £927.68p per day or £241,196.80 per year – plus expenses.
According to Leader Follows, who introduced the officer after the webcast was taken offline, Mr Bate was chosen for the critical post due to his level of experience and handling of financial matters of more than one authority.
Cllr Michael Goodridge said this was the third Sec 151 financial officer we have had since the senior management hurriedly merged the management team with Guildford Borough Council just over two years ago. As this was an interim appointment, he suspected there would undoubtedly be a fourth, which shows some staff instability.
We have only a summary of his CV. I would be interested to know why the candidate left his previous permanent position and was surprised to see where he lived!
I was amazed when at a recent licensing panel meeting I was advised that the lawyer was an interim officer living in Chester, which seems a bit of a distance.
I note the financial implications. The daily rate being paid comes to an eye-watering sum when multiplied by the days in the week plus some 6 weeks’ holidays. I can’t mention any more unti we are in Exempt. (confidential session when the press & public are excluded.)
I am also concerned that due to Guildrord BC’s current financial problems, we will not have or fair share of this officer’s time. As the merger of Guildford was to save money I don’t believe this is going the right way. We need to have a finance officer, so will of course vote for it. But it is at a cost!
Cllr Jerry Hyman. said he echoed the sentiments of concern that others also shared. Asking how long it is going to take to find a permanent officer.
It appears that the agency has found a permanent cadidate/s. We are told a permanent officer will be found in September. If that is the case, the longer we have the interim rates split between two councils, the costs are a lot. Guildford will require more of his time. We are throwing away money on Agency staff when we had initially hoped to save through the collaboration with Guildford Borough Council.
Cllr Ken Reed. The most important point was how long the interim appointment would continue, warning…
otherwise the costs would become eye-watering.
The Borough Solicitor confirmed there would be a similar process by Guildford yesterday, Wednesday, to confirm Mr Bates’ appointment.
Leader Follows assured the officer’s time would be split equally between the authorities. Saying,
It is more important that we get the right person than any person and can handle the job in question.
We are not merging with Guildford – we are sharing resources and some staff.
He said he expected the new officer to put 50% of his time at Waverley, though there would be times when this might be different.
You will see for yourselves the amount of time and effort our officers regularly put in.
The Recommendation was carried by 39 votes with six abstentions.