10th Dec, 2016

Council management shake-up could see chief executive post axed

Stratford Editorial 11th Feb, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

THE CHIEF executive of Stratford District Council could be facing the axe.

Paul Lankester has been at the helm of the authority since taking over from Ian Prosser in November 2001.

But after the council revealed it would need to make cuts to its budget in the coming years, his £107,574-a-year post is now under threat.

The Observer recently reported how district residents were set for a hike in their council tax bill as the authority looks to tighten its purse strings.

And as part of these cost-cutting measures, the Conservative-led council has earmarked £100,000-a-year in savings, which they hope to achieve by restructuring the senior management team.

The team is currently made up of seven posts – the one held by 55-year-old Mr Lankester, an assistant chief executive, and five heads of service.

Those deemed to be ‘at risk’ by the restructure were informed in January and a consultation was launched shortly afterwards looking at ways to save money.

The first option would see the post of assistant chief executive eliminated – leaving a chief executive and five heads of service.

The second would involve removing both the chief executive and assistant chief executive roles and replacing them with two ‘executive directors’ who would have overall responsibility for four heads of service.

Two alternative approaches – which consider sharing functions across the heads of service – were also mooted.

The proposals and the consultation findings were discussed at an Employment Committee meeting on Monday (February 15).

And it is understood the second option – removing the chief executive’s post – will be recommended as ‘the best option for the council’ when the authority’s Full Council meets on February 29.

If the overall budget, including the proposed management changes, is agreed by councillors, it is likely Mr Lankester could leave as early as April.

The Observer contacted the council for further comment but was told no official statement was being made at this stage.

The cost-cutting measures come in the wake of the provisional local government finance settlement, which identifies the level of support for councils in each of the next four years, being published.

Stratford will see a massive reduction in the number of government grants it receives while other finance streams are set to end – leaving the council with the task of making up the shortfall.

Mr Lankester has led the authority for almost 15 years – guiding it from a ‘weak’ performing council in 2005 to a ‘good’ performing council just two years later.

Acting as the most senior officer, he is responsible for around 300 paid staff and works with elected members to deliver leadership, strategic direction, policy advice, partnerships and operational management.

He worked for four district councils before joining Stratford from West Oxfordshire District Council where he held the position of director of environmental services.

In addition to his role as chief executive, Mr Lankester also acts as the council’s returning officer – taking overall responsibility for the running of elections in the district –  as well as being a national adviser to the District Councils’ Network.