County Hall's £165k shake-up manager. And councillors lunch row rumbles on..and on

County Hall's £165k shake-up manager. And councillors lunch row rumbles on..and on

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Monday, March 7 2011

While Kent County Council seems fairly convinced that paying £165,000 for the services of a transformation project manager for less than a year was worth it, I rather doubt taxpayers' will see it that way. (I suspect one or two council employees might also find it rather hard to swallow).

But you could argue - as KCC has - that contracting Jeff Hawkins for a six-figure sum has been value for money because he has helped the authority come up with a leaner structure that will help save more than four times that sum every year.

The related question that needs asking is why, if we follow the argument that has often been advanced by KCC in relation to executive pay levels, the authority felt it was 'unable to find a full time dedicated programme manager with the skills and experience needed for delivering this scale of programme.'

How KCC is paying £165,000 for a shake-up manager>>>

I'm sure Jeff Hawkins is a perfectly capable and skilled adviser. But was there no-one at County Hall capable of steering through this programme, complex though it might be? Surely these kind of changes are exactly what we pay our most highly paid public sector executives to oversee?

Incidentally, it's worth noting that councillors were not involved in signing off the appointment and did not need to be, a situation that has since led to some changes relating to the recruitment of such contractors. 

It's also worth pointing out that you would have had some trouble locating the information regarding the costs of securing Mr Hawkins' services among the hundreds of invoices of more than £500 published monthly by KCC as he is employed by Kent Top Temps - and there are literally hundreds of invoices submitted by Kent Top Temps to KCC each month.

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Meanwhile, the rather unseemly row over whether county councillors should forego their free lunches on days when there are full council meetings at County Hall rumbles on.

I'm always surprised - perhaps I shouldn't be - that politicians appear congenitally incapable of understanding that although the sums involved are relatively trivial, it is this kind of thing that really irritates voters. MPs were exactly the same when confronted with exposure of some of their more modest but nevertheless eye-catching claims in the expenses scandal.

Anyway, it sounds like efforts are being made to bring down the costs although I haven't spoken to anyone yet outside KCC who thinks that the right thing to do would be to continue with the lunches but have councillors pay for them. If, as it seems, they already receive as part of their basic allowance a sum to cover subsisdence, why are we meeting the costs on full council days?

Still, at least it looks like our democratically-elected representatives are to agree to a pay cut. A plan to cut their allowances by 2% is being drawn up, meaning county councillors will see their basic yearly allowance of £13,000 reduced by about £260.

Which is something - although perhaps the prospect of a pay cut explains why they are being so intransigent about their free lunches.

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Categories: Freedom of Information | Liberal Democrats

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Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis

News, views, gossip and analysis on Kent's political scene, from County Hall to Westminster.

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