WHEN NEWS of a proposal to get rid of Helen France emerged on this site, there was a huge sense of both relief and euphoria that the ballast holding the Blackpool balloon down was set to be cut loose.
After a two year spell of throwing good money after bad at an assortment of pointless projects that have provided no benefit to the town, history is about to repeat itself for the bespectacled mandarin who was pushed out of her previous role at Knowsley Council in 2008, and then publicly slagged off by her successor.
Since she has only been with the council for a couple of years, it made sense to get rid of her as her redundancy payout will be much smaller than required to get rid of some of the longer-standing officers. Indeed, her Statutory Redundancy Pay would be a meagre £1,200, but I suspect she will get rather more.
France isn’t the only pen pusher set to be fed to the sharks, though.
The other high profile names in the firing line are;
- Mark Lewis, Head of Legal and Democratic Services
- Phillip Baron, Head of ICT
- Fiona McGrath, Assistant Chief Executive responsible for Policy, Transformation and Communication
- Russ Weaver, Assistant Director of Neighbourhood Services
- Andrew Pollock, Statutory Finance Officer and Director of Resources
There is also one vacant position of Assistant Director of Resources and Planning, which is set to be made obsolete. The total annual saving, by my calculations, works out at just under £675,000.
As a result of these proposed changes, Alan Cavill and Carmel McKeogh will move up to Assistant Chief Executive roles, with Cavill taking over from Helen France. The current Chief Financial Officer, Steve Thompson, will step up and take over from Andrew Pollock. Shirley Young will be ratified as Director of Blackpool Services, although I thought she already was. None of these people will get pay rises in their new roles.
There is still a possibility that these proposed changes could be ‘called in’ by the Conservatives, meaning, for all intents and purposes, that the process is delayed, but it will be impossible to stop given Labour’s domination of the Scrutiny Committee.
Calling it in would also give the impression that the Conservatives do not support cutting the cost of the boardroom at the council, which would at this time be a very unpopular stance to take and would be something that could be used against them time and time again. People have no sympathy for these largely overpaid pen pushers, though it is a little disappointing to see Alan Cavill getting what equates to a promotion.
It will be interesting to see whether these honchos comprise a sufficient sacrifice to appease bloodthirsty Labour supporters. In my view, Simon Blackburn should take his axe and wield it in each and every council department in the same way.
If cost savings, rather than ideology, are the reason he is cutting at the top, he needs to cut through the middle and the bottom as well.