Can Rugby justify paying a chief executive?

RUGBY has found itself at the centre of a national political storm over how local authorities should be run.

Rugby Borough Council is the first in the UK to combine both council leader and chief executive into one job – the current role of Cllr Craig Humphrey. The row escalated earlier this month after Conservative minister Eric Pickles described the role of chief executive – which commands a six-figure salary – as a "non-job" at the Local Government Association Conference.

His comments added more fuel to the politicised debate over how Government spending cuts should be implemented across the country.

Critics of the move, which was implemented without a council vote, question how suited councillors are to overseeing a complex multi-million pound organisation. Those in favour see the combined role as an ideal way of cutting costs at a time when public spending is under scrutiny.

Explaining how the new role works, Cllr Humphrey said: "Our main concern is that as our budget comes under pressure we are able to find ways to protect frontline services.

"We may be the first authority in the country to combine the roles but we won't be the last."

Cllr Humphrey added: "I had a chat with Eric Pickles at the LGA conference and he was quite straight forward with what he thinks should

be done.

"He's not interested in our management structure and neither are the electorate – and why should they be?

"The crucial question is can an authority the size of Rugby justify paying a chief executive?"

Asked whether officers and the electorate could be assured of officers remaining non-politicised, he said: "I don't think it's an issue. There is a clear distinction between the role of myself, and of those of the managerial officers.

"There is a protocol between councillors and directors and anyone combining the roles has to be very aware of exactly what their role involves.

"Over the past few months the system has worked well. I have attended to the political side of things while the technical side of running the council has been left to the officers."

Cllr Humphrey's financial renumeration for the role was the focal point of a report – which has not been made public – presented to council's cabinet on Tuesday night.

Cllr Humphrey said: "Although the financial aspect of how this works is yet to be finalised, the extra amount I receive will be nowhere near as much as a chief executive."