Decision on top job is delayed

Paul Walker

Paul Walker

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PLANS to replace outgoing Hartlepool Borough Council chief executive Paul Walker will not be decided until later this summer.

Mr Walker, 59, handed in his notice at the end of May and he is set to step down from the position he has held for the past eight years on August 31.

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An update on proposals to replace Mr Walker was expected at a meeting of the full council last night but Mayor Stuart Drummond, cabinet members and a working group are still considering a range of options.

They include appointing an interim chief executive or possible job-share with other authorities.

Detailed proposals are expected to go before the full council in August.

In the meantime, councillors have elected eight members to an appointments panel, which will come into force once a decision on how Mr Walker will be replaced has been taken.

Paul Walker

Paul Walker

Speaking after the meeting at the Civic Centre, Mayor Drummond said: “The hope is to bring proposals back to the next meeting of full council at the beginning of August.

“We are looking at a number of options both for the long and short term and everybody is involved in the process.

“The appointments panel has been set up in advance of the next meeting to put procedures in place to ensure that we are ready to go when a decision has been made.”

Mayor Drummond has previously said that Mr Walker’s retirement gives the local authority the opportunity to review options and scrutinise all aspects of the top job – including salary.

Mr Walker hit the headlines earlier this year after becoming embroiled in controversy over the Mayor and cabinet’s approval of his £10,795 pay hike which took his salary to £168,000 at a time when the council was making cuts.

The chief executive, who had long term plans to retire around his 60th birthday in August, did not attend the meeting as he is currently away on holiday.

Councillor Chris Simmons, leader of the Labour group, said: “I am putting forward names on the understanding that the panel wont be enacted until the full council has made a decision on the route that we will take for the paid head of service.”

It was agreed that was the position.

In line with the council constitution, the appointments panel has eight members including chair of the council, Labour councillor Carl Richardson, and Mayor Drummond.

The panel also includes Labour councillors Chris Simmons, Christopher Akers-Belcher, Marjorie James and Sylvia Tempest.

Conservative group leader, Councillor Ray Wells, and Lilian Sutheran, of the Association of Independent Councillors, make up the panel.