I'm working too much, says £232k West Midlands Ambulance boss
"I'm working far too many hours to be perfectly honest with you." That is the claim of the £232,000-a-year West Midlands Ambulance Service boss, Anthony Marsh whose salary has come under fire since he took over responsibility for a second trust.
And the chief executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service and East of England Ambulance Service found himself on the receiving end of stinging criticism from an MP during a live radio phone-in.
Mr Marsh had been prepared to take calls from the public on BBC Radio Suffolk to discuss how he is working to turn around the struggling East of England service he was appointed to run in January, alongside his existing job heading up West Midlands Ambulance Service.
But Mr Marsh's first caller was West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson, who has heavily criticised the decision of the trusts to increase Mr Marsh's pay by £50,000 a year for his two-year appointment. He also hit out at the £400 a week taxi bill for taking Mr Marsh between the West Midlands and the East of England and at how he had missed a meeting with councillors in Staffordshire last week, sending his deputy in his place. Mr Marsh has also been staying in hotels on expenses. His salary has been described as 'obscene' by health minister Dan Poulter.
Mr Watson also claimed to have been told there had been a warrant issued for the arrest of an unnamed interim director, something Mr Marsh denied any knowledge of, and questioned the appointment of his assistant chief executive in the East of England.
The ambulance services say Mr Marsh saves taxpayers £100,000 a year by doing the work of two chief executives.
Mr Watson said: "People in the West Midlands say they're extremely concerned that the strategic targets are not being met. Do you think your attention might be focussed too much on the East of England?"
Mr Marsh replied: "The responsibilities I have are huge. I'm working far too many hours to be perfectly honest with you."
Mr Watson hit back: "If you're working too many hours does that not mean the current arrangements are unsustainable?"
Mr Marsh said: "They were only interim anyway. There's a really good team working in the West Midlands."
But Mr Watson was heavily critical of the situation.
"You're making people redundant and taking a £400 a week journey between two parts of the country," he said.
"You missed a Staffordshire County Council scrutiny board that invited you to talk about the strategic goals. You've been written to by the chair of the scrutiny board in Coventry extremely concerned about missing targets. Members in Sandwell, my own borough are extremely concerned.
"Basically, you're spreading yourself too thin. You say you're doing 70 hours a week whilst commuting in a £400 a week Mercedes, leaving your Range Rover in the West Midlands while you do it. Your position is unsustainable. No human being can achieve what you've been asked to do. I would have thought that a very serious chief executive would have recognised that at the outset."
Mr Marsh said: "I take my responsibilities very very seriously. I've got a good team in the West Midlands. The meeting you referred to in Staffordshire was attended by my deputy chief exec, the general manager for Staffordshire and two other senior managers were able to answer the questions put to them by the scrutiny committee.
"The West Midlands continue to achieve their targets. I'm working as hard as I can. I said it would take two years to turn around. We are seven months into that."
But Mr Watson said: "I don't think this sustainable. No man can work 70 hours a week. I'm a back bench MP and my office deal with my emails. If you say we're paying you £232,000 a year to answer emails then you should re-organise your own personal team."
Mr Marsh said people email him 'expect a personal response that's had my attention'.
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