Bristol City Council has recently parted company with the third Chief Executive to be in post since Mayor Rees took over.
It must be said, that although Cllr Richard Eddy and I have very different political opinions and disagree on many subjects in Council, we share between us 40 years of Council experience and many years of experience in Recruitment and Council HR matters. I have discussed this matter with him.
I was involved in the recruitment of Nicola Yates and she was agreed upon on a wide Cross Party consensus. Both Cllr Eddy and I warned at the time that the basis of the contract would have to protect the Council, as she had left Hull City Council when a Labour Administration took over and Ms Yates left with significant compensation. We did not want history repeating, but advice was ignored and she left Bristol City Council with a much commented upon compensation.
I am glad that terms were moved to Fixed Term for the most recent recruit. It was though obvious when the recruitment process for the Chief Executive this year, that most of the Committee had received no training in the procedures, which are there to ensure fairness and to get the right recruit for Bristol and the process was shambolic.
For this most senior post, a panel of leaders of partner organisations (Police, Universities etc.) was as usual convened and interacted but unfortunately wise words seemed to fall on deaf ears. No proper records were kept and it was obvious that whatever advice that came in from whatever source the Mayor was determined that Ms Klonowski should get the job.
So well within the first year Ms Klonowski has left and we wait to see what is now proposed. Even if we have avoided compensation this time, rapid changes at this level are expensive and disruptive against smooth and efficient management. Bristol City Council has recently been lurching from crisis to crisis.
At a very recent special meeting of HR Committee there was a case put forward to pay a very significant amount of compensation to a very Senior Manager (unnamed) who was to leave the Council. They were not contractually entitled to the money and I am glad to say that the HR Committee roundly rejected the recommendation from the Administration on several grounds. These included that more Junior Staff would not be treated this well.
It is fine to tighten the rules, and caps were put on redundancy payments for senior staff a few years back, but Administrations will try to get around them for their short term convenience.
I do not want to see repetitions but I am afraid that proposed changes in Council rules will make it far more difficult for Councillors to intervene on behalf of the public.