Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Cross-party outrage at £250,000 bill for new Highland Council education boss

Highland Council's interim chief executive officer for education Paul Senior.
Highland Council's interim chief executive officer for education Paul Senior.

Highland Council is shelling out £936 a day – almost £250,000 a year – for a new education boss, it has emerged.

Paul Senior was headhunted for the council after the original recruitment process for its chief executive officer (ECO) for education failed to find a suitable candidate.

The council appointed London-based Gatenby Sanderson to widen the search, on the understanding that the use of consultants can cost up to £1,000 per day.

In a question raised by councillor Andrew Baxter, recently suspended by the council’s Independent group, it has emerged that the cost to the taxpayer for Mr Senior is £936 per day gross, five days per week for a period up to 12 months.

The council explained that they would not have to cover Mr Senior’s National Insurance, pension or training costs and would not have to pay him if he was on holiday or off sick.

Mr Senior started working with the council at the end of May from an education management role with Hackney Council.

He has worked for various English unitary, borough, city and county councils as interim director and consultant of education, children’s or adult services.

The council’s other ECOs earn in the region of £91,000 a year. The Prime Minister is entitled to £79,286.

All eight ECOs in Highland Council also have corporate responsibility for a geographical area, which includes ‘community capacity building, strengthening partnership and promoting cross-service collaboration and build on the council ‘s relationship and reputation with the communities it serves’.

Mr Senior’s allocated area is Sutherland.

Mr Baxter described the eye-watering fee as a ‘kick in the teeth’ to head teachers who have recently had their £5m devolved budget removed to support the council’s ailing finances.

He said: “At a time when the council administration tells us that the finances are in a perilous position, I am staggered that they think spending nearly a grand a day on a consultant is good value for money.

“It’s a kick in the teeth to those head teachers who had carefully budgeted and then saw their school funds raided.

“Little did they realise that this smash and grab raid was to help pay for an expensive bureaucrat.”

The pay revelation has also sparked cross-party outrage from councillors, including many who sit on the education committee, saying they were not informed about the recruitment developments, nor about the amount.

Former head teacher councillor Graham Mackenzie described the appointment as ‘incomprehensible’.

He said: “As education spokesman for the opposition I was asked to serve on the appointment panel, which I agreed to, then I was suddenly told it wasn’t going to happen and it was to be a direct appointment by the chief executive.

“It’s incomprehensible that they are making an appointment like this as a time we’re being told drastic cuts have to be made.”

UHI lecturer and councillor Ken Gowans said the costs for the post and the hiring arrangements were not agreed by any committee.

“My understanding is this was decided by the chief executive using emergency powers.

“It is very important that anyone in this role has a good grasp of all the logistical challenges we face in Highland and the needs of communities.

“While remote working has many benefits it also has its limits.”

Parent and secretary of Bishop Eden’s primary school parent council Helen Smith said: “The difference between his salary and other executive chief officers would pay for eight to ten pupil support assistants.”

Highland Council’s response

Highland Council has tried to recruit to the new post of Eco Education and Learning on two previous occasions without success.

An alternative approach was agreed by the council’s member recruitment panel in February this year to attract a high calibre candidate with a track record in education leadership and improvement.

This involved approaching a head hunting agency, a review of the recruitment package and job and person specifications.

This was noted at the council meeting in March 2020.

Recruitment was concluded during lock-down, with an appointments panel on a reduced scale agreed by the member ‘Gold’ group for this purpose on April 13.

This was reported to council in June 2020.

The appointment was confirmed on 22nd May for a temporary placement on a consultancy basis.

Council leader Margaret Davidson said: “The need for high quality education leadership was heightened in the council’s Covid response to make sure learning continued while schools were closed, childcare was provided for key workers, vulnerable children were supported and schools re-openly safely, in line with Government requirements and taking into account the views of parent and other groups including trade unions.

“In short we needed strong leadership to deal with the pandemic and going forward we need to raise attainment in our schools.

“Paul Senior has the skills we need.”

The fee paid was negotiated with the agency involved for the consultant appointed.

It is not a like for like comparison with permanent staff salary costs.

Permanent staff costs incur an additional 30% salary on cost for the council covering National Insurance and pension contributions and training.

Consultants pay these costs themselves.

Tax is also deducted from the consultancy fee and there are no payments made by the council in the event that the consultant isn’t working due to taking annual leave or sick periods or for necessary training costs.

Current national guidance is for staff to work from home where they can and this applies to all council staff including its senior leadership.

All Ecos have an area responsibility and that includes supporting area committees, staff forums and local initiatives.