Union bosses believe a new county council executive has been parachuted in on a “mission impossible” and with a mandate to speed up the privatisation of services.
West Sussex County Council has appointed two new executives in top jobs following a major reshuffle.
The council is set to appoint Gill Steward as interim transformation director and promote Diane Ashby to interim chief operating officer once they receive the support of a full council meeting on February 14.
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The appointment follows the decision of council leader Louise Goldsmith to delete the post of chief executive Kieran Stigant, who left this week.
The council announced last month it is looking to make £140 million of savings by 2018, despite completing a three-year saving programme of £79 million.
The authority signed a £154 million agreement with Capita in 2012 affecting 600 employees.
Ms Steward previously spent four years at Cornwall Council as director of communities, when a controversial attempt to outsource services including libraries, benefit payments, IT and payroll in a deal worth up to £800 million was narrowly defeated by councillors.
Mrs Ashby is currently director for services operations at the authority. She joined in 2006 after a career with The Body Shop and Marks & Spencer.
Dan Sartin, branch secretary of Unison West Sussex, said the situation surrounding Mr Stigant’s exit with just four weeks’ notice had given council staff “little confidence” in how the authority is being led.
He added: “Gill Steward has been parachuted in now on a short-term contract, seemingly with mission impossible.
“The mandate councillors are giving her is to quicken the pace of their privatisation agenda. It’s when these things are rushed that expensive mistakes are made and the wrong decisions are taken.
“A rush to sell off the council’s services to the private sector won’t save any money or help lessen the massive impact the £141 million cuts will make, it will make things worse.”
Mrs Goldsmith said: “I am delighted to be recommending to full council the appointment of both Gill and Diane to these new posts.
“I am confident that this new structure and these two people will move this organisation forward and deliver our vision for how we want and need West Sussex County Council to operate in the future.”