End this obscene merry-go-round: New Walsall Council director to earn £200,000 in a year
Walsall Council's controversial new interim director is expected to pocket around £200,000 over a 12-month contract.
Julie Alderson arrives amid criticism from a senior councillor who branded the appointment 'obscene'.
It has also emerged that in a previous council consultancy role, Ms Alderson attracted criticism for claiming expenses including batteries and even light bulbs.
Unions have also criticised the appointment at a time of wide-scale job losses at the Walsall authority.
The Unite union railed against the 'financial merry-go round' of town hall consultants and said this latest appointment would leave a 'sour taste' in the mouths of workers.
The Express & Star understands the new director for change and governance will earn between £800 and £1,000 a day for a four-day working week for 12 months.
It comes at a time when Walsall Council needs to save £86 million in four years and faces having to shut 14 of the borough's 15 libraries and relocate the Leather Museum into the one remaining library. Hundreds of jobs are at risk.
The salary revelations have emerged as the new director has finally been named as Ms Alderson.
It is understood she took up her role on Monday, but the council only named her the following day, citing contractual issues.
Ms Alderson has been employed by nine different councils in her career and has come under intense scrutiny for a near-£5,000 taxpayer expenses bill she racked up while working in Yorkshire.
While employed as Kirklees Council's Interim Director of Resources and S151 Officer she billed taxpayers £11.52 for batteries and lightbulbs, £312.80 for parking and £2,117.60 for rent at an apartment in a complex featuring a jacuzzi and a gym.
Other expenses included £1,704.40 for mileage, £85.91 for electricity and £276.42 for meals and groceries.
Councillor Sean Coughlan, the Labour leader of Walsall Council, confirmed Ms Alderson would not be getting any expenses while working for the council.
Fiona Farmer, the national officer for local authorities at Unite, said: "Walsall Council hiring Julie Alderson as interim director for change and governance on a 12-month contract on this enormous daily salary is to be strongly deplored.
"The council appears to have taken a step back from the real world when our hard-pressed members are endeavouring to provide the best possible frontline services to the public, such as staffing the threatened libraries, in an environment of relentless cutbacks.
"Currently there are more than 300 council jobs at risk, yet this financial merry-go round for 'consultancy services' continues unabated – and it leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.
"We question why there is not the managerial expertise within the council to carry out this work and we also question the wisdom of Ms Alderson's very lucrative appointment at a time of extreme council austerity.
"The people of Walsall have good reason for serious concern."
Former council leader Mike Bird, the leader of Walsall's Conservative group, described the appointment as 'obscene'. He said: "As far as I am concerned my opposition is against all interims getting these salaries when we are making hundreds of people redundant. £200,000 is what? 10 jobs for people on £20,000 a year? It's obscene.
"We have got some quality people internally which could have been promoted but unfortunately Mr Coughlan has got more votes than I have and as a result he makes the decisions and will have to face the backlash.
"I have seen her past and checked it out with the Council and they have said she will not be in a position to claim expenses here. I do not know her from Adam, but I do not agree with the appointment and I will be telling her just that. The appointment is obscene."
Councillor Liz Hazell, the UKIP leader in Walsall, added: "How can we tell the public we need to make these savings and lose this number of staff but at the same time afford to put a person on this salary in the council?"
But Councillor Coughlan, the Labour leader of the council, has launched a staunch defence of the move. He insisted the council needed to fill the post and would be saving money by combining two job roles already budgeted for.
He said: "We were creaking at the seams. If we were really insistent on transforming this authority so that we can be an efficient, modern and changed authority then we needed somebody to help.
"The money is there to pay this individual, it is not like I have created a budget that does not exist. It exists, we have used two posts and we are going to save money.
"We tried to soldier on without somebody but clearly it was not working. We really need somebody to help transform the services for the future and I have no doubts about the appointment.
"Everybody who sat in on the interview said she was the best person for the job. We needed the post and this is what we are going to do."