Stephen Vickers
Stephen Vickers is the chief executive of Torfaen Borough Council. Credit: Torfaen Council

TORFAEN Borough Council’s most senior officer could become responsible for Blaenau Gwent under a new shared chief executive post. 

Stephen Vickers was appointed as the chief executive of Torfaen in 2021 and is now being put forward to take on a joint chief executive position with his counterpart in Blaenau Gwent, Damien McCann, due to retire this June. 

The chief executive is a council’s most senior officer and as head of the council’s staff responsible for ensuring council services are delivered and decisions taken by the elected political leadership are implemented. 

Mr Vickers’ annual salary is £132,023 and Torfaen has paid its most senior officers in line with nationally negotiated rates, rather than using its discretion for top posts. Blaenau Gwent also follows nationally agreed rates and has a top salary for its chief executive at £116,000 a year. 

Any decision to appoint a joint chief executive will have to be approved by both councils and Torfaen Borough Council has said Mr Vickers’ appointment will be “initially for a defined period” to look at potential savings and ways of working across both councils.

Torfaen’s Labour leader Anthony Hunt said the intention is to help maintain services amid shrinking budgets while Stephen Thomas, the Labour leader of Blaenau Gwent, denied the appointment would be a step towards a merger. 

Cllr Thomas said: “This is a full-time CEO working across both councils. It is not a move towards each council having a part-time CEO or a merger of the two councils.  

“Both councils would maintain political and financial sovereignty, each maintaining their own priorities and plans, governance structures and their own political independence  

“However, we believe this joint role can present some real opportunities to kick on from the progress both councils have made over the last few years.” 

Torfaen leader Cllr Hunt said “Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen are neighbours, and our councils and communities face many similar challenges. The public are very familiar with the many challenges faced by both councils, including a combined projected financial pressure of around £70 million over the next four years.” 

He added: “This could also help mitigate the very real financial and operational risks faced by both councils.” 

The plan, which Torfaen council said has been discussed with the Welsh Local Government Association, is due to be considered by both councils in the coming months.