Call for county chief executive's contract to be made public

Angie Ridgwell has been Lancashire County Council's interim chief executive and director of financial resources since January - she now has the job permanently.
Angie Ridgwell has been Lancashire County Council's interim chief executive and director of financial resources since January - she now has the job permanently.

The new chief executive of Lancashire County Council has described it as a ”privilege” to take up the top job, while admitting that it was “not ideal” that she did not have the full backing of elected members.

Angie Ridgwell’s comments came at a meeting of the full council which approved her appointment to the joint role of chief executive and director of financial resources. She has been in the position on an interim basis since January.

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Angie Ridgwell’s comments came at a meeting of the full council which approved her appointment to the joint role of chief executive and director of financial resources. She has been in the position on an interim basis since January.

But while she was applauded to her seat in the chamber by the ruling Conservative group, opposition members sat in silence after abstaining in the vote to confirm her appointment.

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Council leader Geoff Driver said he was “delighted” to recommend Ms. Ridgwell - but Labour called for details of her contract to be made available to councillors.

“We find it unacceptable that the ratepayers of Lancashire don’t know what the salary is, what the benefits are, [such as] relocation, and whether there is a ‘no blame’ clause,” Labour opposition leader Azhar Ali told the meeting.

The post has been a source of controversy since a management restructure last year resulted in the departure of former chief executive, Jo Turton. Under the new arrangements, the role of chief executive was merged with the job of finance boss at the authority.

When the permanent position was advertised over the summer, Ms. Ridgwell was revealed to be the only applicant.

“It was made clear by the [council’s] consultants that there were probably only three people in the country who undertook that role,” County Cllr Ali said. "Out of those three, not one of them worked at a top-tier authority.

“If we had separated [the roles], we were likely to get up to 20 high quality applicants for the post of chief executive,” he added.

But Labour was criticised for boycotting the employment committee meeting which was part of the appointments process.

Committee chair, the Conservative councillor David O’Toole, said he had never known another occasion when opposition members had refused to attend. And he insisted that the process had been carried out properly.

“I’m quite surprised that they didn’t turn up and have an input - you could well have abstained at a later date if you wished to,” County Cllr O’Toole said. He added that contract details were a matter to be discussed in private hearings like the employment committee, not meetings of the full council.

And County Cllr Driver blasted all opposition councillors for their comments.

“The words of the opposition are just a feeble attempt to distract attention away from the absolute mess they made of the restructuring of this county council's senior management - and some of the appointments they made to that structure,” County Cllr Driver said.

“And if you don’t believe me, just have a read of the report of the OFSTED inspectors [into children’s services]. They make it quite clear that the previous management structure was not doing a good job - and they make it perfectly plain, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that the present management structure is doing a good job,” he added.

After her confirmation, Ms. Ridgwell - who has served as chief executive of Thurrock Council and also worked in Whitehall - told the meeting: “I will work tirelessly with all staff and members to make sure we do the absolute best for the people of Lancashire - because they deserve nothing less than that