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Opposition Highland councillors hit out at 'secrecy' around departure of education head

By Gregor White

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Paul Senior.
Paul Senior.

Opposition councillors on Highland Council say questions need to be asked after the executive chief officer for education left his post after just 66 days.

It was revealed recently that Paul Senior was being paid £936 a day to lead education services at Highland Council.

The council announced last week, in response to questions from the Inverness Courier, that he was leaving – just 10 weeks after his appointment.

Opposition councillors have now said they were "uninvited" from candidate interviews after raising concerns.

They have also expressed unhappiness at Mr Senior's last minute, unexplained replacement by chief executive Donna Manson at a recent meeting of the Inverness city committee.

A request for a public statement on his departure at a recent full meeting of Highland Council was also refused they said.

They say councillors have now been told there will be a private briefing following a meeting of the education committee on Thursday, to which no members of the press or public will be admitted.

Lochaber Real Independent Councillor Andrew Baxter said: "It's extraordinary that with just over a week to go before our children return to school, the management of our education department is in turmoil.

"The council used the cloak of Covid-19 to make decisions in secret and their behaviour makes it clear that they have no desire to operate in an open and transparent way. No questions, no discussion is the new motto in force at Glenurquhart Road."

Andrew Jarvie, leader of the Conservative group on the council said: "This sudden departure raises only as many questions as there have been secrets around this exorbitant, supposed-to-be 12-month appointment.

"When I hear people were previously arranging to meet with him after this sudden departure date, something has clearly snapped. Yet it isn’t worthy of explanation.

"It is simply inexcusable first, that the press were told of this exit hours before councillors were, then to outright refuse any discussion on the matter.

"This council has shamefully used Covid as a smoke screen to make decisions few of us would ever have agreed to.

"Taxpayers deserve to know exactly why someone had to be hired at £1000 per day, and what they were actually tasked to do.

"I was invited to interview the applicants for this post, but after I raised concerns I found myself uninvited.

"The only possible conclusion is that this council has no desire to be transparent and honest, it only reacts when it finally gets caught out."

Related articles: £936 a day Highland Council schools boss in shock exit

Highland Council comes under fire after it is revealed its education boss is getting paid more than the Prime Minister

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