IT project dispute for CEC and CWAC

Cheshire East Council will step up its efforts to hire a new chief executive this week, writes Stephen Topping.

A special meeting of the council’s staffing committee will take place on Friday to approve a new job description for the role.

It comes almost a year after Mike Suarez resigned from the post, having been suspended for 15 months while an investigation into his conduct took place.

The new chief executive is expected to earn a salary between £156,075 and £166,075, according to CEC’s pay policy statement for 2019-20.

CEC had been advertising for the position earlier this year, but the recruitment process was paused in May.

In the draft job advert councillors will consider on Friday, CEC says the new chief executive will “provide a strong sense of direction and purpose” to the local authority.

It adds that the new recruit will “plan resources to enable the council to deliver its vision and priorities” while the new chief executive will also be CEC’s returning officer overseeing elections.

Kath O’Dwyer has served as acting chief executive since April 2017 when Mr Suarez was first suspended by CEC.

The recruitment of CEC’s new chief executive follows the authority’s push to improve its workplace culture.

Since three top officers were suspended in 2017 and a Local Government Association review highlighted bullying concerns, CEC has embarked on a ‘brighter future together’ programme.

For 12 months the council worked with HR consultants Sticky Change as part of the project, paying more than £150,000 to the firm for its support, and CEC emphasises its new workplace culture and values in the draft advert for a new chief executive.

It says: “For us, it is not just about our achievements as an organisation, but about how we do it.

“At CEC we are working for a brighter future together – we have a shared purpose, we are supported and well-led, we are treated fairly and highly valued, we succeed together.

“This is all underpinned in our employee deal and everyone is expected to uphold their commitments by living by our values and demonstrating our behaviours.”

The cross-party staffing committee – which is made up of eight members – will interview candidates for the role at a later meeting, before recommending its preferred candidate for approval by full council.

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