the civic centre in pontypool
The Civic Centre in Pontypool Credit: LDRS

BLAENAU GWENT county borough councillors are set to discuss moves that could see the authority sharing a chief executive with their neighbours Torfaen.

At a special meeting of the council on Wednesday June 12 councillors are set to debate a report that gives the preferred option that Torfaen County Borough chief executive Steven Vickers also take the helm in Ebbw Vale.

The council has been searching for a permanent chief executive for over two years when former managing director, Michelle Morris left Blaenau Gwent in March 2022 to become the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

Former director of social services, Damian McCann stepped up into the role and has been the Blaenau Gwent “interim” chief executive ever since.

But with Mr McCann due to retire at the end of this month, the council need to move fast to find a suitable replacement.

The report, which is set to be presented by council leader, Labour’s Cllr Steve Thomas explains: “Some months ago, the leaders of Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen met with the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) to discuss challenges and to explore opportunities that may arise from working more closely together.

“Torfaen face many similar challenges as a council, across communities and across businesses, to those in Blaenau Gwent.

“Working in partnership with one or more of our Gwent neighbours is nothing new, and there are several successful examples of collaboration, partnership and joint services where all have benefited.

“The interim chief executive is due to retire at the end of June and the
council has a statutory requirement to have a chief executive.

“A proposal for a single chief executive to work across both authorities, initially for a defined period, has been explored and discussed.”

The report explains that there would be an initial nine month “discovery phase” to find out if the sharing the role across both councils works.

The proposal also includes promoting a senior manager within the ranks of both Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen to become its deputy chief executive.

After nine months a further report will be presented to the council which will evaluate the pros and cons of the arrangement and will advise councillors to either make the move permanent or scrap the arrangement.

If the role is scrapped, Mr Vickers would continue as joint chief executive for a further six months to allow Blaenau Gwent time to find and implement and “alternative option.”

If the move is agreed Mr Vickers will receive an annual salary of £156,235 a year and it’s payment would be shared between Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen

The salary is £24,000 above what Mr Vickers is currently being paid and reflects the combined population of both Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen which is 160,000 people.

This population figure would see the join chief executive role pushed into the bracket of an equivalent bigger Group B authority such as Newport or Powys.

Before Blaenau Gwent councillors have their say, Torfaen councillors will meet on Tuesday June 11 to approve the “secondment” of Mr Vickers to the joint chief role.

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