Chorley and South Ribble councils begin the search for a new chief executive as Gary Hall's retirement is announced

The hunt is on for a new chief executive at Chorley and South Ribble borough councils – even though the current one is not leaving until the end of the year.

By Paul Faulkner
Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 9:56 pm

Gary Hall is set to retire after what will be over 11 years in charge at Chorley and more than three since he also took on responsibility for neighbouring South Ribble.

The two authorities are planning to continue sharing the role and have this week invited applications from any existing staff who may be interested in the top job.

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Gary Hall has been in charge at Chorley Council for over a decade and also at South Ribble for nearly three - but he will retire at the end of the year

Both councils have a policy that commits them to trying to find a suitable internal candidate first – and only looking further afield if necessary.

That stance was reaffirmed at full council meetings of each of the authorities last week – but, in South Ribble, the Conservative opposition group said that the significance of the position meant that external applicants should be given a chance at the £145,000-per-year job from the outset.

Moss Side ward councillor Michael Green said that there was a good “business reason” to deviate from the usual process.

“I’d like to think all of us want what’s best for South Ribble Borough Council and for our residents in terms of services [and] attracting investment – and on that basis, it’s only right and proper that we test the market.

“And if we have a suitable internal candidate who wishes to put his or her name forward as part of that process, then that is to be welcomed – very much so – but it’s only right that we widen the net…and seek the best possible person for such an important role,” Cllr Green added.

However, South Ribble’s Labour leader Paul Foster said that there was no justification for jettisoning the agreed recruitment policy.

Broad Oak ward Liberal Democrat councillor Angela Turner added that creating an environment of internal promotion “provides a career development opportunity for somebody else to take on the role of the person that has been promoted”.

“That…inspires other people around [them] to think that they have got a chance and are part of an organisation that is developing their existing staff and giving them a chance.”

There was less contention over the matter in Chorley, where Labour council leader Alistair Bradley was more concerned with ensuring a long handover period for Mr. Hall’s successor.

“When you change the person at the top, it’s the most dangerous time for an organisation, so we have to do it right,” Cllr Bradley said.

If an internal candidate does prove successful, they could be in place by late April. However, papers presented to both councils state that there will still be time for a sufficient transition even if the job is opened up to external candidates.

Hopefuls amongst the existing staff have been asked to submit their CV, along with a supporting statement setting out their leadership and “change management” skills and their approach to supporting the two councils to deliver services.

Shortlisted candidates will then face an assessment centre at which they will be interviewed one-to-one by each of the council leaders and also face several panel interviews.

If the joint appointments panel considers that one of the internal applicants should get the job, they will recommend that individual to full council meetings of each authority. Councillors will have the final say irrespective of whether the panel ultimately puts forward an internal or external candidate .

Mr. Hall was himself promoted from within Chorley Council when he stepped up to become the authority’s chief executive in July 2011.

In May 2019, he also became interim boss at South Ribble after the suspension of his counterpart, Heather McManus. Following her departure from the authority a year later, Mr. Hall was then appointed joint chief executive of both Chorley and South Ribble councils on a two-year fixed term contract from January 2021.

During the pandemic, he became ‘Silver Command’ on the Lancashire Resilience Forum, which led the county’s response to the Covid crisis.

WHAT DOES THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE DO?

According to the job description for the new role, the overarching responsibility of the chief executive is to “ensure the effective strategic leadership of [each] council’s senior management team”.

Specifically, they will be expected to:

***act as the councils’ principal adviser to the elected leadership of the councils on policy options and the forward planning of objectives, services and resources to deliver the sovereign councils’ ambitions for the boroughs;

***provide leadership, direction and management of the officers of the councils to ensure the delivery of the corporate strategies and the provision of high quality, cost-effective services based on community needs;

***manage the interface between elected members and senior officers, promoting a positive and respectful relationship between [them];

***provide strong, visible leadership and direction to the councils’ workforces to deliver council and community priorities, maximising potential and developing a culture of accountability and empowerment.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO GET THE JOB?

***A relevant postgraduate master’s degree or equivalent qualification and/or extensive relevant experience

***Be able to demonstrate a commitment to professional development and have significant experience of managing relevant teams and functions with demonstrable success at a comparable scale and level of complexity

***Have experience of managing a range of multi-disciplinary projects using transferable skills to move between projects and teams to drive delivery and achieve benefits

***Be able to demonstrate effective written and verbal communication skills.

***Be able to work as part of a team, maximising available resources and to plan and organise a varied workload with shifting deadlines and priorities.

***Be able to challenge service performance, identifying and implementing improvements.

Source: Chorley and South Ribble councils

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