Video: ‘Weak and irresponsible leadership’ – Labour hits out at ‘political fix’ over top job

29 Oct 2020 @ 7.29 am
| Politics

The council in York is to appoint a new chief to manage the staff and services on a salary of more than £145,000 a year – and acting head Ian Floyd was the only candidate for the job.

But today Labour group leader Cllr Danny Myers strongly hit out at what he called “a backwards step”.

He says he stated at every opportunity the need to have a recruitment process that included external and internal candidates for this vital position. And when that didn’t happen, he withdrew from the process.

Councillors will be asked to vote on the move later today (Thursday) with warnings of another legal minefield if they don’t.

Mr Floyd has worked at City of York Council for more than a decade and has been acting as temporary chief executive, following the departure of former chief executive Mary Weastell after the local elections in 2019.

He was interviewed for the job on 1 October by Liberal Democrat councillors Nigel Ayre and Paula Widdowson and Green Party councillor Denise Craghill.

Cllr Myers was also due to be on the panel but refused to take part.

‘Cooked up’

City of York Council’s West Offices. Photograph: YorkMix

Speaking in a video interview with YorkMix, Councillor Myers said he wanted a proper chief executive to run York rather than a lesser post of chief operating officer.

He says a chief executive would be able to work externally to help get the city moving again.

“The city needs leadership, every business, every organisation that I talk to about the way to get this city moving forward, again, its economy and the way it looks after its residents – they all say that they’re disappointed in the leadership coming from this building, political and organisational.

“They want people that can corral everybody together and build a real joint organisation to make York a better place.

“I think the York residents deserve that. And the council leadership, the Lib Dems and Greens that have cooked this one up have really made a backward step here.”

He described the process that has gone on as a political fix. “It smacks of very weak leadership and not respectable leadership,” he added.

York council’s last chief executive, Mary Weastell

Former chief executive Mary Weastell took early retirement in March, with a £400,000 settlement from the council, after being signed off sick since last summer.

It has since emerged that Ms Weastell was taking City of York Council and the council leader, Cllr Keith Aspden, to an employment tribunal.

Any savings by appointing a chief operating officer rather than a chief executive were offset by the huge payout to Ms Weastell, Cllr Myers said.

“The only reason that they’ve done that is because they’ve had to pay out up to £500,000 to somebody who used to be the chief executive here to drop an employment tribunal against the council leader and sign a gagging clause so they can’t speak about it in future.

“It smacks of absolute irresponsible leadership from the political leaders in this city and I can’t be part of that process.”

Fears of a legal challenge – and a desire to save cash

Ian Floyd

It is argued that having a chief operating officer rather than a chief executive post will lead to savings of £95,000. “The interview panel recommend the appointment of Ian Floyd,” a report for Thursday’s meeting says.

“Following discussion they concluded [he is] ‘Highly suitable, with significant strengths and appointable to the position of chief operating officer.’

“The council will be exposed to legal challenge should there be a decision not to approve the appointment.

“These could include a claim of unfair redundancy selection and / or constructive dismissal.

This would result in additional costs to the authority through any claim along with a redundancy payment circa £60,000.”

Trade unions GMB and Unison took part in the interview process, with a spokesperson for each union saying they felt “confident” the correct procedures have been followed.