Councils struggle with chief executive recruitment

Councils are increasingly poaching chief executives from rival local authorities, with little benefit to them and much cost to the taxpayer, a report has found.

The Audit Commission study, Tougher at the Top?, discovered that the number of top bosses transferring between councils more than doubled during this decade.

Between 2005 and 2007, 21 vacancies at single tier authorities and county councils were filled by a chief executive from another authority up from just nine in 1999-2001.

The large numbers were often due to a ‘domino effect’, the watchdog found, with several councils incurring recruitment costs from one initial vacancy.

Chief executive salaries also soared, as employers entered a bidding war, yet there was no evidence of the policy yielding positive results.

Councils that appointed a chief executive from another authority did not consistently score higher Comprehensive Performance Assessment scores – a measure used by the Audit Commission to gauge council performance – than those that recruited candidates without chief executive backgrounds.

Steve Bundred, chief executive of the Audit Commission, said: “The talent pool that authorities use is shrinking, while the demands of the role are increasing.

“The current trend towards recruiting existing chief executives, particularly by poorer performing authorities, has meant that recruitment costs and wages have risen.

“However, recruiting the tried and tested doesn’t automatically produce a boost in performance or encourage innovation.”




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