County leader "not surprised" top job attracted only one applicant

The leader of Lancashire County Council says that a shake-up of the authority’s most senior staff will be judged on the “outcomes” it delivers - and not the process which paved the way for the changes.

Geoff Driver was speaking after chairing a committee to discuss the Conservative-run council’s next move after it attracted only one applicant for the vacant post of chief executive.

County Cllr Geoff Driver

County Cllr Geoff Driver

WATCH & READ MORE >>> Labour boycotts appointment process for new chief executive

It emerged on Monday that Angie Ridgwell - who has been carrying out the newly-combined role of chief executive and director of financial resources on an interim basis since January - is the sole person to have expressed an interest in the permanent position.

The full decision of the authority’s cross-party employment committee - which is held in private - is not yet known.

The committee met without its Labour members - after they boycotted the process over the dearth of applicants.

But County Cllr Driver said Lancashire residents would be more interested in how the council is run.

“The people of Lancashire will look for the outcomes. They will want to be sure that Lancashire County Council is going to provide services for the people of Lancashire - particularly those for our more vulnerable fellow citizens - and that they are going to be financially sustainable.”

The opposition group had called for a rethink of the restructure in an attempt to attract more applicants for the top job.

Labour’s deputy leader, John Fillis, said: “We really need to hold back on this. This is a £200,000 job, with extras on top, yet only one person has applied from the whole of the country.

“What does that say about the reputation of this council? Some of the top professionals... won’t touch [Lancashire] with a big stick,” he added.

County Cllr Driver said uncertainty about the future of local government is likely to have led to a lack of interest in the position.

“Lots of local authorities are facing serious financial pressures and people are looking to see what’s going to happen [in the sector] before they make a move,” he said. "We knew we were going for a relatively small field when we amalgamated [the roles] - it's not a surprise."

And he denied that the new dual role had a created a flaw in the way the council operates.

“I don’t think we’ve removed any checks and balances at all. The law allows you to combine the chief executive and the finance officer - and some authorities do that.

“We’re not doing anything unlawful or improper in any way - we have followed exactly the proper procedures,” County Cllr Driver added.