FENLAND:World wide reaction to FDC's decision to retain Mat after he emigrates to Australia

By JOHN ELWORTHY REACTION from across the world has been pouring in today to Fenland District Council s surprise decision to allow finance director Mat Taylor to retain at least part of his job when he emigrates. The revelation – exclusively revealed by t


REACTION from across the world has been pouring in today to Fenland District Council's surprise decision to allow finance director Mat Taylor to retain at least part of his job when he emigrates.

The revelation - exclusively revealed by the Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard on our respective websites yesterday- has seen reaction from people living in not only Australia but also Poland, Dubai, America, Argentina, Spain, Switzerland , Cyprus and Ireland.

A spot check of comments posted to many of the national and international newspapers now carrying the story suggests two thirds supporting the decision - roughly in line with early results from the Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard own websites.

Mr Taylor, 44, and his wife, Kim, 41, and three children plan to move to Adelaide in October but he will continue to look after Fenland Council's £18 million annual budget through video links and via email.

He has signed a one year contract - which may be extended- and will work one day a week for the council on a salary pro rata to the £100,000 a year package he currently enjoys.

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A time difference of eight hours - and a distance of 10,000 miles- is the price Fenland Council is prepared to pay to keep Mr Taylor on board.

The Taxpayers Alliance has condemned the plan as "ludicrous" and want the council to reconsider.

"How can you ease your replacement into the role when you are thousands of miles and in a completely different time zone?", said a spokesman. "Life for these local authority executives is getting very comfortable indeed. They are getting paid really well when ordinary people are finding it difficult to pay their council tax bills, yet they are rarely held to account for their mistakes."

The only opposition councillor at Fenland- the independent member for Manea, Mark Archer- is also less than pleased with the decision.

He told journalists yesterday he was "gobsmacked and horrified" by the decision and claimed the council had "lost touch with reality."

He said: "I certainly would not have agreed with this if it had been put to a vote."

However across the websites of many newspapers carrying the story, there is a mixture of those in favour and those against.

One early letter to this newspaper noted that "as well as E Mail some verbal communication will need to be made between FDC and Australia."

Ken Hector of Elm added: "Will this mean that owing to the time differences extra staff will need to be employed by FDC on night duty ?

Other comments posted to websites included:

"Putting aside all the usual snide comments that will no doubt ensue, there are some important and fundamental considerations here. There is no good reason why many people cannot work from home in this manner - but where does the tax get paid?

- F.U., Coventry

"Legalised robbery."

- Susan, Warrington

"Nice work if you can get it. Don't expect such a cushy number over here in Australia. He will have to work for a living. Is the council paying a return airfare for him every few weeks as well? Who cares anyway, it's only Cambridgeshire taxpayers money.

- Gazzer, Gold Coast, Australia, 14/8/2008 12:17

Eight Hundred Pounds a Day?, talk about the gravy train. Unbelievable.

- Dick Conway, San Miguel de Salinas Spain, 14/8/2008 12:46

This is quite normal - hardly a "precedent". Lots of we UK emigrants have our services retained (in all sectors) either on a contract or consultancy agreement in order to complete projects or enable handover and so on.

It's nothing special or anything to get excited about. And their "utilisation of modern technology to deliver a cost effective solution" means using the internet and possibly VOIP telephony. Innovative in 1998 but entirely normal in 2008.

- Vicky, Germany

If he is that good, ask him to come home we need a new chancellor of the exchequer.

- Lynn, Tyneside, 14/8/2008 12:48

Only in Government, be it National or Local.

- Karen, ex pat USA, 14/8/2008 14:02

So what! scores of Met police obtain full pay for attending just one day a week- due to some sickness or other.

Not easy doing five days work in one.

- Jonathon, Exeter

As a Fenland District Council tax payer I am appalled by this.

FDC will go to any lengths to squander money and rate amongst the highest in the list of Councils for year on year tax increases. Having just sold of the entire council house stock for £19million (less than £4000 per house!) and squirreled away the proceeds they think they have money to burn.

Is there really no one else in the area who could do this part time job?

- S, Cambridge, 14/8/2008 15:25

Well if he can work on the internet, perhaps it may put an end to all the government and council jollies as any information they can get off the computer, as apposed to going on a fact finding trip with their families.

- Norman Miles, China

He'd better be prepared for a large amount of tax - tax bands in Australia are a lot lower (and tax increases a lot quicker), because the average salary in Australia is nothing compared to what it is in the UK. Still, on £800 per week, he could live quite nicely.

- Oliver (ex-pat), Düsseldorf, Germany, 14/8/2008 16:27

I bet he's an 'expert' in Bin micro chipping, surveillance cameras or minority awareness seminars, so he's obviously irreplaceable.

- Mike Randall, Worcester

Absolute rubbish !!! If this man was that good he would be working in the private sector.

- Vic Earle, Hull, 14/8/2008 17:43

Lovely. Just peachy. There's I struggling to pay the extortionate increases in my council tax and other bills and there are the local authority throwing money around for no reason. Great. Thanks a bunch Fenland Council. You can whistle for the increase next year.

- MV, Cambs

how nice for the taxpayers of this region. and how absolutely appalling of the council to even consider this they must be mad. I know I would be if it were my hard earned council tax they were using.

- Shirley, Yorkshire, 14/8/2008 18:13

Nothing new. Thanks to modern technology I was able to build a sound studio in the middle of a vineyard here in Slovenia and still work live with my old clients. Cheers.

- Barrie Redfern, Zdole, Slovenia, 14/8/2008 18:23

The mainstream media discovers virtual work.

- Kent Ulrich, USA, 14/8/2008 20:10

He will need the extra income because it is no longer cheap in Oz. I have just had 6 months there so know the score.

At last. I've now seen the indispensable man.

- Ronnie, Bucks,UK, 14/8/2008 21:28

Its a new slant on working from home. His, our, local council bosses must be very insecure that they think a man is indispensable. There are many good people out there, it is not necessary to employ someone who has "jumped ship".

- Dab, Cambs, England,

Can't see how he can 'keep his finger on the pulse' in his local council area if he is 10,000 miles away.

- Bron, Melbourne, Australia,

Are the Cambridgeshire Council Tax Payers up in arms about this ?????

If not, why not..????? Another snout in the trough aye???????

- jf, E.Yorks,

what a scam..

- Donny dehaviland, ,Hampshire

He's dreaming if he thinks its 'Mediterranean', we have just had the coldest August for 31yrs, and it has been minus4 and all the pipes froze!

- seasider, Adelaide Australia, 15/8/2008 1:59

With today's communication advancements it doesn't matter where you work from 10 miles to 10,000

- Astonian, Burbank, California,

This just goes to show what I have thought all along, majority of councils are being run by the Merry Hood and his Robin Men.

Hurrah for Britain, the laughing stock of the world! What would we do without you to provide our daily chuckle?

- Clive A Blake, Victor Harbor South Australia,

Sandra Claxton et al should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, they are as bad as those people in the EU gravy train - they all have their snouts in the trough while the rest of the country are having to tighten their belts.

is this an April fool------or is it just the council tax payers who are the fools------here in Scotland, council tax is frozen and will be scrapped

- tony, Glasgow, 15/8/2008 7:04

I don't see why managing the finances of the council is any different to managing the finances of a commercial organisation, I am a qualified accountant and live in Cambridgeshire and am quite happy to come and do the job for half the salary currently being paid.

- Malcolm, Cambridge

For the past 5 years I have worked from home, I rarely meet with anyone from the company as there is no need, when required we see/speak on Skype, I log on to the central server get the job done in the hours specified with no distractions.

- Lorna, Midlothian, 15/8/2008 8:19

The reason councils have to pay this much is for competence.

- Freewheelin, Sheffield, 15/8/2008 8:22

I pay my council tax to Fenland District Council, no wonder it jumps by extraordinary amounts every year.

- Maureen, Cambridgeshire

Another pig in the trough. This sort of practice should be illegal.

- Archi Hipkins, Whitley Bay, 15/8/2008 9:43

When it comes to our public servants you just cannot make it up.

- PETER MARTIN, HULL, 15/8/2008 9:53

Email your views to: john.elworthy@archant.co.uk




FENLAND District Council is to retain its successful £100,000 a year finance director despite the fact he is emigrating to Australia.

As 44 year-old Mat Taylor sets up home 10,000 miles away in Adelaide he will work one day a week- and keep the finance chief post- thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

"When the idea was put to me my first question was 'is there a precedent?" said Council Leader Geoff Harper. "The answer was 'no'. I then asked if it was legal- and was told that it was. So here we are- and the council is confident it will work well both for us and Mat."

"We have found an exciting and innovative way of retaining his considerable expertise until we have recruited someone who can replace him.

"We are the first local authority in the country to fully utilise modern technology to deliver a highly cost-effective solution to the problem of maintaining continuity when there is a change in key personnel.

He added: "Retaining Mat's services is much more cost-efficient than bringing in an interim finance director."

Mr Taylor, who has worked for the council for five years, said: "Fenland has been a fantastic place to live and work.

"I first moved to March in 1996 and in that time I've seen an amazing improvement in both the council and Fenland. As a resident of Fenland for 12 years, I'm really looking forward to being able to remain connected to the great things going on at the council."

The council's deputy chief executive Sandra Claxton said: "Modern technology within the council linked to the World Wide Web, ensures that there are no obstacles in communication."

Cllr Harper endorsed the extraordinary arrangements after the council's staff committee gave the green light to a report by Ms Claxton.

For weeks the council has tried to talk Mr Taylor out of quitting- and out of emigrating- and there was even talk of allowing him to take a sabbatical to give him time to see if he liked working down under.

Ms Claxton told the council's staff committee- at a confidential briefing- that Mr Taylor's "excellent finance management" had played a pivotal role in the council's success story. As part of the council's transformation it was "a position it will wish to retain."

She said that the only other option open to the council was to appoint an interim manager- at a cost of £800 a day- and begin the process to find Mr Taylor's successor. However the interim manager would be unfamiliar with Fenland's structure and operating practices "and an interim manager could not possibly be expected to fulfil all the requirements of the permanent post."

By retaining Mr Taylor for one day a week- for an initial 12 month period- it would ensure "the council's smooth running from the point of his departure, a seamless handover to the new appointee and continued coaching and support thereafter."

Crucially Mr Taylor will continue to fulfil what is known in local government circles as a 151 chief finance officer- a role that would have required outside help, probably from a neighbouring council, in the interim.

Cllr Harper insisted the new arrangements would be "cost neutral" whilst Ms Claxton said the arrangement would be "significantly more cost effective" than relying on temporary staff.

The council also says an internal promotion has been ruled out since there are no suitable experienced and qualified accountants eligible for the post.

Cllr Harper added: "Mat has the experience and knowledge of Fenland's future plans and finances and he will remain an invaluable member of the senior management team until a suitable replacement is found. Mat will also play a key role in supporting whoever is appointed during the handover period.