Suffolk: Andrea Hill on extended leave

COUNTY council chief executive Andrea Hill is today on extended leave

Mrs Hill left Endeavour House and went on a pre-planned holiday on April 18, just hours after Mark Bee was elected leader of the ruling Conservative group and became leader-elect of the county council.

She had been due to have a busy day of meetings but did not return to Endeavour House today.

Jane Storey, acting leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “Andrea is on extended leave as agreed by myself as acting leader.”

During her absence some of the key policies she had been implementing as a key architect of the council’s New Strategic Direction have been abandoned.

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Within hours of his election, Mr Bee made it clear there will be no withdrawal of funding for school crossing patrols where they are needed and earlier this week it was announced that the divestment of the library service across the county had been abandoned.

These were key elements of the New Strategic Direction which was conceived as a policy to divest council services to other bodies wherever possible.

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Mrs Hill was a keen advocate of that policy. In her latest “Message from Andrea” article sent to county council staff just days before former leader Jeremy Pembroke announced his retirement

she said: “I’m going to help us create a simpler more flexible council that really listens and works alongside communities to give them more control over council services.

“And I’m going to find a way to reduce the cost of our overheads for Suffolk taxpayers.

“That’s what the New Strategic Direction is all about. I believe in it and I’m going to give it my energy, intellect and hard work. That’s what I’m paid for.”

During her absence from Endeavour House, the New Strategic Direction seems to have been unpicked day by day.

This has led many to speculate on how she would be able to work with the new leadership.

Her role could also come under the spotlight in an external inquiry into the management of the legal services department.

This was set up following the sending of an anonymous note to senior councillors in the wake of the sudden death of interim departmental head David White.

He was found dead in Butley Woods just days after taking over the role following the sudden departure from the council of monitoring officer Eric Whitfield and director of resource management Graham Dixon.

Mrs Hill has been a controversial figure in Suffolk from the day her appointment as council chief executive was announced three years ago.

Her �218,000 a year salary immediately sparked controversy – and has remained a talking point ever since.

She refused to take a reduction, despite being urged to do so by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles and having her salary commented upon by prime minister David

Cameron – she did, however, turn down two pay rises which would have given her an extra �11,000 a year.

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