The under-fire £232,000-a-year chief executive of two ambulance trusts is an ‘extremely hard worker’, his deputy in the West Midlands has said, following criticisms that his salary is 'obscene'.
But Anthony Marsh has come under fire from councillors after missing the one opportunity a year a committee in Staffordshire had to question him.
Diane Scott, deputy chief executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service, defended Mr Marsh amid concerns that it was too much for one person to run both WMAS and another ambulance service in the East of England. It comes after it emerged his salary has been increased by £50,000.
Conservative junior health minister Dan Poulter said the pay packet was 'obscene' and has called for a review. However WMAS said Mr Marsh was saving taxpayers £100,000 a year by taking on the work of two chief executives and running the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) as well. He has been tasked with turning it around following a damning report he wrote on it last year.
On top of his salary, he also stays in hotels funded by the taxpayer and spends up to £400 a week on taxis to take him between the two areas.
Meanwhile a letter leaked to West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson, written by former East of England Ambulance Service chairman Geoffrey Harris, also raised concerns about Mr Marsh’s appointment. In the letter last year, ahead of Mr Marsh taking up the post, Mr Harris said: “We cannot see how any chief executive, no matter how competent and experienced, working on a part-time basis could commit sufficient time and focus to EEAST to address the organisation’s leadership, management and developmental needs.”
But Ms Scott said: “Mr Marsh is an extremely hard worker. Both trusts agreed the arrangements. He only wants the best for patients. He is assisting East of England. If at any time the trusts thought it was detrimental the arrangement would end.”
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Ms Scott attended a meeting of Staffordshire’s health scrutiny committee in Mr Marsh’s place along with other members of staff.
Chairman of the committee Councillor Kath Perry said: “I am a little disappointed that the chief executive couldn’t be with us.
“It’s once a year we hold the ambulance trust to account and it’s disappointing he’s not here.”
Speaking after the meeting she added: “The chief executive is the figurehead of the trust. We tried to agree a date that was suitable but were told it would be September or October at the earliest.”
Agendas were printed saying the 'chief executive and colleagues' would attend but councillors had know in advance that he would not be there.