THE row over an ousted council boss has finally come to a conclusion – but has sparked a dispute between neighbouring authorities.
Peter Simpson, the former chief executive of Hambleton District Council, were sent home on gardening leave in February over what was described as serious management issues.
Since then, negotiations had been taking place for a possible settlement package that, it was claimed, could have included a payment as high as £375,000 – or three times his annual salary.
However yesterday – as a new management line-up was announced for the authority – it emerged that an agreement had now been reached with Mr Simpson and his legal representatives.
He will continue as a Hambleton employee for a further 12 months – on half his £125,000 salary – before taking early retirement at the end of April next year. Mr Simpson, who declined to speak to The Northern Echo, will be working for the district council national network “undertaking projects of significance to the local government community”.
Mr Simpson co-ordinated the introduction of a number of shared services between Hambleton and neighbouring Richmondshire but, although he acted as chief executive for both councils, he was always employed by Hambleton.
The Hambleton authority has now approved the appointment of a new chief executive – who will be supported by five directors – with current acting chief executive Phillip Morton taking on the top role.
However the council insisted the new management team would be working “solely for Hambleton” although shared services – such as IT, environmental services, refuse collection and street cleaning – would continue.
And that, in turn, has sparked the beginning of a rift with Richmondshire, where the council leader, Councillor John Blackie, accused Hambleton of making a unilateral decision with no real consultation.
Hambleton council leader Councillor Neville Huxtable said the move represented a new start for Hambleton.
“This puts the authority on a firm footing for its future work and enables the council to focus its efforts on serving its communities and delivering excellent services,” he said.
However he added: “It does not mean the end to working with Richmondshire District Council. We are committed to shared services – but these must be to the benefit of Hambleton residents.”
Coun Blackie welcomed Hambleton’s commitment to shared services, which have led to savings of about £2.4m over the past three years.
But he added: “We do have most serious misgivings over two senior management teams directing one set of shared services.”
He said that in anticipation of Hambleton’s new arrangements, exploratory discussions had been taking place, adding: “We may have to look for other partners.”