Worthing Borough Council has been asked to justify returning its chief executive to a full-time position following the premature end of his secondment with the health service.
Alex Bailey’s secondment to the NHS Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group saw him reduce his role at Adur and Worthing Councils to three days a week.
The secondment, which started in November, was due to last 18 months and was predicted to save the council more than £60,000 on his budgeted salary cost.
However ‘changing financial priorities within the health service’ saw the secondment come to an end in June this year, at which point Mr Bailey returned to his full-time £117,000 salary at the councils.
At a Worthing full council meeting on Tuesday, a member of the public said he was ‘disappointed’ to hear that the secondment was ended early, describing it as ‘an invaluable opportunity’ to learn about the work of the health service.
Graham McKnight grilled councillor Dan Humphreys, leader of Worthing Borough Council, on whether Mr Bailey should continue to work just three days a week.
“Can Adur and Worthing not make do with a part time CEO on a part time wage,” he asked. “Could the potential savings not be better spent elsewhere?”
Mr McKnight’s question was later echoed by councillor Bob Smytherman.
But Mr Humphreys said: “I don’t accept the terminology that we have had a part-time chief executive. This was very much about joint working.
“There were some budgetary savings but this was not primarily a budget-saving exercise.
“It was about the council using senior level staff to work more closely with the CCG to help the local health services.
“We are still doing that. We need a top team at the council to help us do that.
“Carving up the senior management team and sending them off to work part time is not the way we manage that.”
While he said they would ‘always review structures’ at the council, the idea of the chief executive working part time would be ‘a nonsense’.
“It was always factored into our longer-term budget to have a CEO on a full-time salary,” he said.
Mr Humphreys said the councils would continue to support the local NHS.
“We have an ambition in this council to work right across the public services in the area to help support and influence where necessary,” he said.
“We do remain absolutely committed to working with other public bodies across the public sector.”
At Mr Smytherman’s request he agreed to submit a written update on what was achieved by Mr Bailey’s secondment.
After the meeting, Mr McKnight said: “I think that Worthing Borough Council has missed an opportunity to rethink how they can best spend public money – clearly Adur and Worthing councils survived with a part-time CEO.”