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‘Gaping holes left’ in York education department
COUNCIL chiefs have been accused of leaving “gaping holes” in a key department as they look to start the search for a new £115,000-a-year education boss.
City of York Council has been without a permanent director of education, skills and children’s services since April, with the official who has filled the role on an interim basis now leaving.
At a meeting on Thursday, councillors will be asked to approve finding a new director whose salary will be more than £12,000 above the role’s previous grade, through a “market supplement” policy which the council says is necessary to attract and retain high-calibre officers.
Coun Jenny Brooks, Conservative education spokeswoman, has criticised the process to replace Pete Dwyer, who left his role as director of adults, children and education earlier this year.
His remit included duties which will become the responsibility of the new director, with current interim director Kevin Hall leaving the council shortly. Coun Brooks said the council had also lost an assistant director for education this year and had “left it late” to find replacements, meaning it now faced a vacuum at the top having known for “a considerable time” that Mr Dwyer was leaving.
She said: “Children’s services and child protection is one of our most important departments and it’s either incredibly bad planning, or perhaps wishful thinking, which has left it with holes at the top of its management structure.
“As capable as the rest of the staff may be, it’s unfair to leave such an important department in this type of uncertainty, and it’s certainly unfair to children and young people, and their parents and carers, who depend on its services.”
The leader of City of York Council, Coun James Alexander said: “Regulations require such an appointment to be made by a decision of the full council and the earliest opportunity for this since the post-holder announced his intention to leave is our meeting on Thursday.
"All group leaders, including myself, have been kept informed of this process by the chief executive without negative comment. I discussed the matter with Coun Ian Gillies [Conservative group leader] and he was happy with the process.
“It is not surprising, given the good performance of the council’s children’s services, that our staff are being attracted to other councils who pay higher salaries.”
Kersten England, the council’s chief executive, said its children’s and education service was one of the country’s best, saying: “It is inevitable talented members of staff will be in demand by other authorities and seek to further their careers. It’s normal practice to have interim arrangements in a time of change. We’ve had the benefit of an experienced senior officer as our interim director, which has meant we have been able to sustain our service delivery.”
Ms England said the interim period had allowed the council to review senior officials’ responsibilities and create a separate directorship for education and children’s services, working alongside Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director for adult social care and public health. She said any market supplement would ensure York secured “the best people for a crucial and growing service area”.
Mr Hall is due to leave before December to become East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s director of children’s services. Short-term cover for the York role is being arranged and the job is expected to be advertised before the end of October.
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