County's £220,000 boss starts work

ANDREA Hill started work today as one of the highest paid council officers in the UK when she signed in as Suffolk's chief executive.Mrs Hill has moved from Bedfordshire at a time when Suffolk county council finds itself facing abolition in under two years as part of the review into unitary government in East Anglia.

Graham Dines

ANDREA Hill started work today as one of the highest paid council officers in the UK when she signed in as Suffolk's chief executive.

Mrs Hill has moved from Bedfordshire at a time when Suffolk county council finds itself facing abolition in under two years as part of the review into unitary government in East Anglia.

At a salary range of up to £220,000, she joins an elite band of highly paid chief executives who earn not only more than the Prime Minister but also the heads of Britain's biggest local authorities, including Birmingham, Manchester, Essex, Hampshire, Leeds and Glasgow.

If as seems likely the county is broken up into a number of unitary authorities, Mrs Hill will be line for a redundancy package which will have to be paid for by council taxpayers. Although the local government minister John Healey has said there will be no compulsory redundancies if reorganisation goes ahead, Mrs Hill will join Norfolk's chief executive David White and the heads of 14 district authorities looking for a new job.

The political fallout from the decision of Suffolk's ruling Conservative politicians to increase the salary - on the advice of the firm of head hunters hired to find suitable candidates for the job - after they appointed Mrs Hill, will make the atmosphere at the county's Ipswich headquarters decidedly frosty.

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Mrs Hill's first task is to make peace with Labour, Liberal Democrat and independent county councillors who opposed her appointment on a revised salary which is up to £70,000 than the former chief executive Mike More, who has left to head up Westminster city council.

She must then work up a strategy to promote the county council's plan to create just one unitary authority in Suffolk, merging the powers of the existing county and seven districts.

With only one district - Mid Suffolk - supporting this plan, and the Government likely to want at least two unitaries in the county, including one based on Ipswich, Mrs Hill will have to convince the independent Boundary Committee for England that One Suffolk makes economic and political sense.

If Suffolk's bid fails, and the BCE is due to report in July on its favoured “concepts,” then Mrs Hill will find herself looking for a new job from April 2010 which is the date ministers have in mind to overhaul local government in Suffolk and Norfolk.

When local government reorganisation was mooted by the Government, Bedfordshire launched a £500,000 campaign to keep the county council in existence failed. Mrs Hill spearheaded an operation which failed ministers decided to abolish the authority and replace it with unitary authorities.

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