Mystery as council chief executive and two deputies placed on 'special leave'

Heather McManus
Heather McManus
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The three most senior officers at South Ribble Borough Council have all been put on “special leave” with immediate effect.

Chief Executive Heather McManus and her two deputies, Tim Povall and Gregg Stott, will not be fulfilling their roles until further notice.

Council leader Paul Foster told the local democracy reporting service that the authority is liaising with “the Local Government Association and others over a number of ongoing legacy issues”.

Staff at the council’s Leyland headquarters are understood to have been advised that it would be “inappropriate” to discuss the matter or contact the officers during their leave.

The chief executive of neighbouring Chorley Council, Gary Hall, has been drafted in to help run the district. He will act as South Ribble’s head of paid service, a role which has to be filled at all times by law.

In a South Ribble Council statement, Coun Foster – whose Labour group took control of the authority only last week following local elections – said work at the council would continue seamlessly.

“Gary Hall will supplement capacity at a senior level during the period of absence, ensuring we continue to offer excellent services for our residents.

“Gary is familiar with us here at South Ribble and he will start working with us with straight away,” Coun Foster said.

Heather McManus joined the council in 2017, taking over from Jean Hunter who had briefly returned as interim chief executive after previously having held the role for a decade.

The authority’s two deputy chief executives arrived at South Ribble just under six months ago.

Tim Povall is responsible for resources and services shared with Chorley Council. He had previously spent 20 years in finance roles at Liverpool City Council.

His fellow deputy Gregg Stott’s portfolio covers regeneration and growth.

Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley said of the news: “We received a request from our colleagues at South Ribble to see if we’d be happy to allow our chief executive to help out during the period of special leave.

“We have arrangements for reciprocal support between councils and as we already have a working relationship with colleagues at South Ribble through shared services it makes sense for this to happen.

“Gary will be balancing his workload between the two authorities and it won’t have any effect on the services we provide to residents.”

South Ribble and Chorley councils have worked together across their finance and assurance teams for several years. That shared services agreement was set to be widened last year to cover the legal and human resources departments at the authorities.

Four new director and assistant director posts were due to be advertised, but progress stalled before Christmas. Both councils had indicated that they were hoping to revisit the arrangement after the recent local elections.