A DAMNING report has criticised a plan to abolish the post of Harrow Council's most senior civil servant - and Labour have hinted they could reverse any scrapping if they seize power in May.
In October, incoming council leader Councillor Susan Hall (Conservative) launched a consultation seeking to axe the role of chief executive in a cost-cutting measure and, having been on leave, incumbent Michael Lockwood resigned from the £183,097-a-year job on November 26, before the 30-day consultation with him had concluded.
Councillors on a scrutiny challenge panel have since investigated the proposal and reported: “We take the view that waiting until after the elections in 2014 would have perhaps demonstrated a clearer mandate for change than has been possible given the political turbulence which has resulted in the changes in administration during 2013.
“We also feel that staff and residents have been unsettled by the political upheavals of the last few months and that again, introducing the proposals when there has been a clear mandate for change might have been more constructive.
“Whilst we do not dispute the competence of the acting head of paid service or his management team, we wish to place on record our concern that the deletion of the chief executive’s post has reduced the senior management capacity at what is a critical time for
“In particular, we are concerned that at a time when we need to find significant savings, independent, corporate oversight has been reduced.
“It is important to note in this context that no final decision has been taken to delete the post of chief executive and that any such decision has been postponed until after the council elections in May.”
Mr Lockwood left the authority with a severance package comprising a compensation payment of £30,000 and a lump sum pension payment of £138,651, in addition to an annual pension of £65,179.
Councillor David Perry, leader of Harrow's opposition Labour group, said: “The Labour group are currently in the process of drawing up our manifesto for the 2014-18 council administration, if elected.
“Susan Hall has left the option open for the leader after the elections to reinstate the chief executive position should he or she feel it is necessary.
“The Labour group are watching this new senior staffing structure very closely and shall form a view on its performance in the coming months.”
The statutory duties of Mr Lockwood, who had been in post for more than six years, have been taken on by Paul Najsarek, the council's corporate director for community health and wellbeing.