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Highland Council to consider creating new deputy chief executive role as part of a package of cost-saving measures on staffing

By Alasdair Fraser

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Highland Council HQ. Picture: Gary Anthony
Highland Council HQ. Picture: Gary Anthony

Highland councillors will tomorrow (Thursday) debate whether to create a new deputy chief executive post as part of a cost-saving shake-up of senior management.

Members will be presented with two options for the senior staff restructuring as part of broader moves to save the local authority £500,000 a year from 2021/22.

A report by officials to the full council meeting highlights the need to make the local authority “more agile, responsive, adaptable and affordable” given the pandemic.

It warns that any delay in approving either of the two options would threaten budget savings and put at “serious risk” the council’s response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In May 2019, the council agreed to create a new senior structure featuring a chief executive officer (CEO), a chief operating officer/deputy chief executive and eight executive chief officers (ECOs). The recruitment process for the deputy CEO was paused following a review in September 2020.

The first of two options being put to members this week involves deleting the role of deputy CEO from the senior leadership team and transferring duties to one of the ECOs, with a £10,000 salary rise.

Option two would appoint a £122,812-salaried deputy CEO, but reduce the number of ECOs to seven.

The report says that option two would cost £40,000 more than option one, but still deliver savings.

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If option one is approved by councillors, the chosen ECO would deputise for the CEO and play a leading role in enhancing the council’s performance. Among other benefits, it would ensure a £100,000 saving.

But the report highlights “challenges” in failing to appoint a dedicated deputy CEO, including negative impacts on the CEO’s role and areas such as strategy and leadership.

With option two, one ECO post in “transformation” would be removed.

The new appointee would take on a leading role on areas including local emergency planning and resilience.

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