Job share plans are backed

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A SENIOR officer role will continue to be shared with a neighbouring local authority despite concerns the money involved is “morally wrong”.

Hartlepool Borough Council is to enter into a new contract with Darlington Borough Council to share the lead human resources role in a bid to save £100,000 a year.

The post would be shared between the two councils, with each contributing around £50,000 towards the salary.

Cabinet committee members first agreed to continue to share the role in June.

But it was called in by the scrutiny co-ordinating committee which wanted more information about the job description and contract details.

Labour group leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, who wanted a full council discussion, said it was “morally wrong” to pay £52,500 a year for a two-and-half-days work a week.

He wanted to see if there was any current staff within the department who could step up.

But cabinet members, who confirmed their original decision, said it was the cheapest option and would ensure a highly qualified officer was in place to cope with redundancies facing the local authority due to budget cuts.

Speaking afterwards, Coun Akers- Belcher said: “Without examining the skills and competencies of staff we currently employ, the cabinet would rather pay someone £50,000 a year for a part-time job, £1,000 per week, for two-and-half-days’ work, when the people of Hartlepool are hurting.

“Some families of four in Hartlepool do not have that to live on a month.

“It is obscene money and morally wrong.”

He said it increases the risk of redundancies, showed “contempt” for full council and excluded councillors from the decision making process.

But independent councillor and cabinet member Paul Thompson said: “It is not morally wrong.

“That is what you have to pay somebody of that level. We are paying for knowledge and a high level of academia.”

Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “Our preferred option is the least expensive, it is the safest and the less risky in the long term.

“There will be redundancies and we need to have the best advice we can possibly get.

“The organisation is at huge risk if we don’t do it.”

Hartlepool first entered in the arrangement last November with both councils sharing the cost and services of Joanne Machers, who was in charge of HR.

It saved each authority £50,000 a year.

But a decision to continue needed to be made after it was announced Ms Machers, the council’s former chief customer and workforce services officer, was leaving at the end of June to take up a new role at the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS).

Options included appointing a chief customer and workforce services officer for Hartlepool Council at a maximum cost of £103,000, carrying out an internal re-structure to remove the HR post at a cost of £59,000 or continuing to share a head of HR with Darlington Borough Council at a cost of £52,500.

The cabinet opted to continue the shared arrangement, which will be in place for an initial 12-month period with Darlington employing the new head of HR. Members and officers from Hartlepool will be involved in the recruitment process.