New twist in chief’s pay saga

OUTGOING council chief executive Paul Walker will not be taking a controversial £13,000 unpaid leave deal, the Mail can reveal.

It has also emerged that Hartlepool Borough Council could save £100,000 in the wake of the civic head’s retirement.

There was a major backlash when it was announced earlier this year that Mr Walker had been given a £10,795 pay hike, taking his salary with the cash-strapped council to £168,000.

As a result of the uproar Mr Walker – who had not at that time announced his retirement – agreed to take four weeks’ unpaid leave at a personal cost of £13,000.

But we can now reveal that due to his exit at the end of August, he will not be taking the unpaid leave before he retires.

Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “There is the potential to save up to £100,000”.

The level of savings has not yet been established as the full council is still to make a final decision on how Mr Walker will be replaced.

The £100,000 figure relates to the wages that Mr Walker would have received had he stayed in his post until next March.

Mayor Drummond said that is more important than the £13,000 gesture of goodwill.

He said: “The agreement was to take some time over the course of the financial year, which runs until the end of March.

“I would suggest that him leaving has overtaken that now.

“It was always going to be a voluntary agreement and it would be down to the chief executive whether he took that within the three-month notice period.

“There is going to be a period of seven months for the rest of this year to look at potential savings.

“Whatever arrangement we come up with for the rest of the year there is the potential to save up to £100,000.

“It is a substantial saving and that is more important now than £13,000.”

By law the local authority needs to have a head of paid service and council bosses are considering all options including an officer temporarily taking on the role, appointing an interim chief executive or a possible job share with other authorities.

Mayor Drummond added: “The final decision is down to full council and there will be cost implications for whichever arrangement we decide to go with.

“But at the forefront of everybody’s mind is the need to make savings and I don’t think that anybody would want to go for a hugely expensive option.

“The opportunity to save much more than £13,000 has presented itself and that is something that needs to be seriously considered.”

Mr Walker said: “I made the offer to take unpaid leave in recognition of the serious financial position the council found itself in.

“My leaving the council provides it with the opportunity to save around £100,000 before the end of this financial year, therefore there is now no need for me to take unpaid leave.”

The 59-year-old handed in his notice at the end of May and he is set to step down from the position he has held for eight years on August 31.

He said he had always planned to retire around his 60th birthday.

The salary hike was rubber stamped by the council’s cabinet committee, which is chaired by Mayor Drummond, last December.