Dr Wendy Thomson, who is leaving her role of managing director of Norfolk County Council. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.
The post of managing director at Norfolk County Council could be scrapped.
Council leaders say a new County Hall set-up would save cash and allow councillors and officers to work more closely for Norfolk.
But opposition councillors fear the change could see decisions made behind closed doors.
The council’s £183,000-a-year managing director Dr Wendy Thomson recently tendered her resignation, with a new job at the University of London awaiting her from July next year.She will not remain at the council for the whole of her three-month notice and Conservative leader Andrew Proctor said her departure is an opportunity to take the council in a different direction.
He is proposing an executive cabinet model. The council currently has a committee system, but the Conservative administration wants to revert to the cabinet system, where members of the controlling party have portfolios.
And the switch to a new model, already used at Wiltshire Council and Kent County Council, would mean Dr Thomson would not be directly replaced.
Tom McCabe, director of community and environmental services, would become head of paid service and the other executive directors would remain.
A key change would be the creation of a corporate board.
That would consist of the leader, deputy leader and the executive directors. Meetings would not be public, although meetings of the cabinet would be.
Mr Proctor said: “The opportunity is there to ask if we actually need a managing director or chief executive?
“The thing we want to improve is the way members and officers work together. This gives us an opportunity to work much more closely together to give us the strategic direction we want.”
Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group, said: “The cabinet system can be a very efficient way of doing business.
“But to skim off some decisions into a corporate body which meets behind closed doors and is not accountable is not transparent.”
Mr Proctor said the system would include a cabinet scrutiny committee and ‘select’ committees where decision making could be explored.
But Lib Dem leader Dan Roper said: “What is being proposed is the biggest concentration of power in a few councillors’ hands that Norfolk has ever had. It removes checks and balances and people should be worried.”
The proposals will come before the policy and resources committee on Monday, November 26.
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