Basildon Council's chief executive claims he is working harder than ever after reducing hours (From Echo)
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Basildon Council's chief executive claims he is working harder than ever after reducing hours
6:00am Tuesday 8th October 2013 in News
BASILDON Council spends £31.2million of taxpayers’ cash every year on a huge package of frontline services, from rubbish collection to housing.
You’d think the boss of such a complex operation involving hundreds of staff would need to work full time, five days a week. But that’s not the case in Basildon.
Bala Mahendran, the council’s chief executive, is now being paid for three days work as part of a cost-cutting overhaul.
Mr Mahendran’s £155,904 wage, which was often criticised by opposition councillors, has been reduced to £93,542.
Since August 1, he has been scheduled to work three days a week, but he makes it clear he is accountable for all seven.
He said: “If, at 12am they need to know something on my day off, they will still call me.
“I have never said I am a parttime chief executive, I am still the same in terms of responsibility and accountability.
“This week, I’m in work all five days. It would have been easy to say no, but there is a job to be done. This week, we have the Indian Institute of Directors over, so it is important to build a relationship with them.
“On the Friday, I am going out to Festival Leisure Park with officers and police to see the nighttime economy there. It’s something I want to do, but I didn’t have to do.”
The authority claims its reshuffle – which places Mr Mahendran as the boss of four executive directors and has seen high-profile staff go – will save £700,000 by 2014.
Critics might argue the council needs a full-time chief executive more than ever as it faces unprecedented cuts, in addition to an ambitious 20-year masterplan to revitalise parts of Basildon, including the town centre.
But Mr Mahendran claims other authorities have successfully changed the way chief executives work – Essex County Council head Joanna Killian was also boss at Brentwood Council for a while.
He claims the four-strong team below him – Kieran Carrigan, head of resources, Ian Woolford, head of future and place shaping, Scott Logan, head of people and place, and Dawn French, head of corporate support – will give him the foundation to succeed.
With that in mind, does the authority still need a chief executive at all?
Mr Mahendran said: “Clearly, this saves money, but I still feel I have a big contribution to make.
“Look at my record. If you take the past four years, that includes three freezes and one small decrease in council tax against a backdrop of cuts.”
His performance-related pay of 20 per cent of his salary has also been downsized and is dependent on a number of factors, with the authority having to rope in an external consultant to support council leader Tony Ball in seeing whether he has hit his targets.
In 2012/13, Mr Mahendran was paid £30,295 in bonuses and one-off payments, such as for acting as returning officer during elections.
He says he is still as motivated as he was when he stepped into office nine years ago.
He said: “I could have said after serving 30 years in local government that my time has come and I’ll ride off into the sunset. But I’m still passionate about the town and the challenges ahead. I have done the donkey work so
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