Creation of 'flimsy' roles at £7,000 is 'indefensible', says North Somerset councillor

North Somerset Council's full council meeting

North Somerset Council's full council meeting - Credit: North Somerset Council

A shake up of top jobs for North Somerset councillors has come under fire with £7,000 junior roles slammed as “indefensible”. 

The number of executive and assistant members has not changed but Councillor John Crockford-Hawley warned one portfolio could be a “clumsy leviathan” while others were “sops to small parties”. 

Others called for greater scrutiny of the positions and the power they wield but were told changing the structure would mean amending the constitution. 

Cllr Crockford-Hawley told the full council meeting on April 20: “The creation of flimsy assistant executive positions for no reason other than offering sops to small parties at £7,203 a shot is, I think, quite indefensible.
“I have yet to see any justification for these positions and indeed I’ve yet to hear any current executive member ask for those positions to be created.” 

Assistant executive roles are not new but Cllr Crockford-Hawley – who will get £7,203 as a scrutiny panel chair – said they were equally indefensible under the previous administration. 

In 2020/21, all North Somerset Council members got paid a basic allowance of £9,131, while those with special responsibilities get extra. 
Leader Don Davies got an additional £28,812, deputy Mike Bell received £20,186, the six other executive members were paid £17,287. 

The assistant executive members got £7,203, as did the chairs of the policy and scrutiny panels and the planning and regulatory committee, while the audit committee chair was awarded £4,322. 

There is no allowance for the licensing committee chair. Cllr Crockford-Hawley said such “non-jobs” should not be given more money because chairing three meetings a year was “not exactly strength sapping”. 

Commenting on changes to Cllr Mark Canniford’s role, he said: “We’re about to create a huge place making and economy portfolio which I think will be all embracing, demanding of abilities wider than any individual councillor possesses. 
“We’re in danger of creating a potentially clumsy leviathan.”

The executive roles are being changed to better reflect the officer structure and improve accountability. 

More: Changes to North Somerset Council's executive team announced.

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Speaking outside the meeting, Cllr Mark Canniford was confident he could handle his expanded portfolio, saying: “Some people might not be able to cope but I will certainly do the job I’m asked to do.” 

He said having place making and the economy together made sense as they are interdependent. 

Cllr Caroline Cherry called for greater scrutiny of the positions and the power the councillors wield so they “aren’t marking their own homework”. 

She suggested discussing the issues “more privately” but Cllr Richard Westwood, the council’s new chairman, said it needed to be done in the open. 

He said he was quoting Cllr Bell from 2019 in describing council leader Don Davies as “effectively supreme autocrat of North Somerset”. 

Expanding on his earlier comments, Cllr Bell said: “The constitution of the council requires the leader, who is elected for a four-year period, to form an executive and allocate portfolios.  
“That is what the leader of the council has done, so he has fulfilled his constitutional duties. 

“It is then for full council to approve the nominations of the panel chairman. 
“There is nothing further to debate in this forum at the moment. It’s constitutionally quite straightforward. 

“There are plenty of points that were raised that may or may not be legitimate but this is not the moment to discuss them, because actually constitutionally you cannot change any of it, even if you wanted to.” 

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Davies said: “Until proposals are put forward to do things differently, we are where we are. The constitution is the property of the council as a whole. I can’t change it.” 

Who's who in the executive? 
Cllr Don Davies – leader of the council
Cllr Mike Bell – deputy leader of the council, executive member for adult services, health and housing
Cllr Catherine Gibbons – executive member for children’s services and lifelong learning
Cllr Nicola Holland – assistant executive member post-Covid education and skills recovery
Cllr Ash Cartman – executive member for corporate services 
Cllr Bridget Petty – executive member for climate emergency and engagement
Cllr Mark Canniford – executive member for placemaking and economy
Cllr Robert Payne – assistant executive member parking strategy and delivery
Cllr Mike Solomon – executive member for neighbourhoods and community services
Cllr Steve Bridger – executive member for assets and capital delivery

Committee chairs
Cllr Geoff Richardson – corporate organisation and overview management policy and scrutiny panel
Cllr Wendy Griggs – children young people’s services policy and security panel
Cllr Mark Crosby – adult services and housing policy and scrutiny panel
Cllr Ciaran Cronnelly – health overview policy and scrutiny panel
Cllr Crockford-Hawley – place policy and scrutiny panel 
Cllr John Cato – audit committee
Cllr James Tonkin – planning and regulatory committee 
Cllr Andy Cole – licensing committee
Cllr Davies – employment committee 
Cllr Ann Harley – public rights of way committee

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