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Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent shared chief executive salary agreed

Stephen Vickers is the chief executive of Torfaen Borough Council (Pic: Torfaen County Borough Council)

THE SALARY to be paid to a council boss who will take on responsibility for a neighbouring authority has been agreed. 

Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent borough councils will share a chief executive on a trial basis with the intention of finding savings and ways to work together. 

It was announced in April Torfaen’s chief executive Stephen Vickers would work on a full time basis as the chief executive of both councils. 

At their June 11 meeting Torfaen borough councillors agreed to share their chief executive for up to nine months for a “discovery phase” and the salary he should be paid, which will also have to be agreed by Blaenau Gwent councillors when they meet on June 12. 

Mr Vickers is currently paid £132,023 a year but unlike all other council employees there is no national pay scales for chief executives meaning the council has had to agree a new salary level.  

A report, which was accepted by the full council, proposed the joint post should have a salary of £156,235 based on the combined population of Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent being 160,000. As the combined population is close to the 161,000 population of Newport the salary of the chief executive of the city council was chosen as a benchmark. 

Mr Vickers had to leave the council chamber during the debate on his salary and independent councillor for Llantarnam, Cwbran Jason O’Connell said the chief executive’s workload was being doubled. 

He asked: “Do we consider that increase to be enough or should we consider something higher to make sure we retain him?” 

Earlier, during the discussion on sharing the chief executive who is the head of all council employees and responsible for ensuring services are delivered and decisions of the elected leaders put in place, Cllr O’Connell said: “In football parlance it’s like sending your star striker out on loan, I’m a little bit upset from that point of view.” 

Jason Lewis, the council’s director of corporate services, said the council had wanted to show “restraint” on pay and it was considered reasonable for the discovery period. 

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He said: “We were mindful of interest in senior pay in local government and other public services and think we needed to show a level of restraint on what is appropriate.” 

In response to Pontnewydd councillor and Labour cabinet member Sue Morgan, Mr Lewis confirmed if there is a decision not to continue with a shared chief executive Mr Vickers will return to Torfaen on his current salary. 

Cllr O’Connell had also questioned if sharing a chief executive would also see shared human resources and finance departments and “departments like education over time”? 

He said: “I see it gradually creeping towards merged boroughs.” 

Deputy chief executive Nigel l Aurelius said the initial proposal is to “share Stephen but explore the potential benefits of the authorities working more closely together.” 

But he said they would remain “sovereign” and set their own council tax. 

Labour council leader Anthony Hunt said the proposal had come “from the bottom up” as opposed to being suggested by the Welsh Government like previously abandoned plans to merge councils and he said it was intended to address the risk of reducing budgets. 

The council agreed to closer working through a shared chief executive, with one member voting against, and to the recommended salary. 

Councillors were told the Independent Renumeration Panel for Wales, which has to be consulted on senior salaries, hadn’t provided a response – despite “several prompts” – but neither had it objected. If it does the councils could be forced to consider a different salary.

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