OPPOSITION councillors at Gloucestershire County Council have branded the appointment of former GCHQ director Sir David Pepper "privatisation by the back door."

Liberal Democrat and Labour members have put in a Freedom of Information request at Shire Hall to find out how much of taxpayers money has been spent on hiring Sir David as a non-executive director.

Non-executive directors are standard practice in the private sector but the appointment is thought to be a national first in local government.

Liberal Democrat councillor for the Cotswolds, Roger Brown, said members were not consulted and no information was available about the terms of the contract the duties expected or the salary to be paid.

"His appointment will circumvent the role of county councillors who sit in effect as non-executive directors," he said.

Labour group leader Cllr Maureen Rutter said: "This is thin end of the wedge, how many more outside 'captains of industry’ will be drafted in to help run a public service?

"This will be paid for with tax payers money to do a job which should be done rightfully by the likes of a select committee or a scrutiny body."

Cllr Brown also criticised the Tory-led administration over the appointment process and claimed it should have gone through the Appointments Committee, which consists of senior councillors from all parties.

But GCC's chief executive Pete Bungard said: "Sir David will be acting as a consultant and he will have no decision making powers therefore the role has nothing to do with the Appointments Committee."

He said the role would be completely separate from political structures.

Leader of GCC Cllr Barry Dare said: "This is a consultancy appointment, advising the senior officers and is below the level at which councillors are involved in the decision-making process."