COTSWOLD MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown has written an open letter to the leader of the district council, questioning why a senior member of staff is retiring early.

The Conservative MP penned the letter to Councillor Joe Harris, the Liberal Democrat leader of Cotswold District Council, to raise his concerns over the departure of Nigel Adams.

Sir Geoffrey wrote: “Dear Joe, I was surprised and saddened to see the Cotswold District Council press release of the 5th June 2020 that Nigel Adams, head of paid service at the council is to retire early as soon as the end of this month.

“Nigel has given 39 years of loyal and distinguished service almost entirely to the Cotswold District Council (CDC). I reiterate what you say in your press release, everyone from staff, councillors, members of the public and I, will miss him. Therefore this announcement raises a number of important questions to which the people of the Cotswolds are entitled to have answers. I would be grateful for your response please.

“1.Why is he retiring early in the middle of a national emergency?

“2. What steps did you take to ensure that he could continue working as long as possible until the crisis is over, assuming he wished to?

“3. The press release says he will retire at the end of this month ie June, and it goes on to say that it will take six months to run a proper public recruitment campaign, and that Christine Gore will be the interim chief executive. This is a big step for someone, in the middle of a pandemic, who as far as I am aware has not run a council before, so what additional support will she be provided with?

“4. I note that Nigel Adam’s job is head of paid service employed by the council itself and his new job is to be advertised as ‘chief executive’. Please could you explain the difference in job title and duties, and will that person be employed by Publica, as I believe Christine Gore currently is, or will they be employed directly by the Council? This is pertinent because the public are entitled to know what will be the precise duties of the new chief executive as opposed to the current job as head of paid service, and who will be their employer?

5. There will undoubtedly be considerable costs to the council in respect of this whole process, any additional costs attributed to Nigel Adam’s retirement, the costs of recruitment of the new chief executive and any increased salary, and possible additional costs in the 5 months interim. I appreciate some of these categories are sensitive, so please could you itemise as fully as possible what the additional aggregate cost will be to the council which will ultimately have to be paid for by the council tax payer? Will it be paid out of reserves? I note that you inherited £13.2m in cash reserves, £7.5m in property reserves and £12.5m in financial investments when you took over the council last May.

6. This is in the context where I understand you are losing a substantial amount of money every month because of the Covid crisis. Will the Council be putting forward an emergency budget, if so when?

“As this is a matter of important public interest, I am releasing this letter to the press and will await your reply.

“As with all matters where you require my help, as the Member of Parliament for The Cotswolds to lobby the Government, I stand by to resume discussions.”

In response, Cllr Joe Harris said: “1. Mr Adams has chosen to take early retirement. This is not connected with the Coronavirus emergency.

2. I am not able to disclose Mr Adams’ wishes in this matter or the nature of the discussions that he and I had, as this would be a breach of personal confidentiality. I can assure you that Cotswold District Council has worked closely and effecitvely with partners in Publica, Public Health and the County Council throughout the Coronavirus emergency. I am confident that this will continue as we emerge from the pandemic.

3. As your rightly say, Mr Adams has given 31 years of loyal and distinguished service at Cotswold District Council, but he has only held the appointment of Head of Paid Service for a little over two years. Dr Gore is a very experienced local government professional with over 20 years experience at senior executive level, during which time she had bene responsible for every service a district council provides. She will continue to be supported by other senior colleagues, including the managing director of Publica, who previously served as chief executive of a unitary council before joining Publica last year.

4. ‘Head of Paid Service’ is the legal term used in local government legislation for the most senior employee of a local authority and carries with it a very specific, but narrow, range of statuary duties. The move to the job title ‘chief executive’ signifies a wider and more strategic role. The chief executive role is broader than that of Head of Paid Service, but the legal duties of the Head of Paid Service will be undertaken by the chief executive as part of their job. The chief executive will be an employee of the district council.

5. The details of Mr Adams’ early retirement were reported to full council on June 3. This report was not made on the public agenda because it contained personal, sensitive data relating to Mr Adams’ employment, including financial information.

The council will enter into a settlement agreement with Mr Adams to terminate his employment. The exact costs and the means by which they have been funded will, in due course, be reported in the council’s annual accounts in the normal matter.

6. While the council’s budget is under considerable pressure due to the coronavirus emergency and the Government’s failure to fully fund local authorities, I am confident that the budget is under careful management as we seek to rebuild the council and improve public services for people who live, work, and I hope soon also visit, the Cotswolds.

There is no need for an emergency budget at this time.”