Stop using my finance chief as a political football says Fenland chief executive

By John Elworthy CHIEF executive Tim Pilsbury tonight accused Fenland councillors of using his finance chief Mat Taylor as a political football . Mr Pilsbury spoke out after councillors questioned why Mr Taylor, on a �20,000 a year contract for one day

By John Elworthy

CHIEF executive Tim Pilsbury tonight accused Fenland councillors of using his finance chief Mat Taylor as a "political football".

Mr Pilsbury spoke out after councillors questioned why Mr Taylor, on a �20,000 a year contract for one day's work a week after emigrating to New Zealand, is now back in England temporarily and working nearly full time at Fenland Hall.

Mr Pilsbury has emailed all 38 Fenland councillors telling them that whilst Mr Taylor was working firstly in Australia and latterly in New Zealand, he had never left the council's employment.


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"Just for clarity, Mr Taylor was not 're employed'. His hours were reduced to one day a week, and they have been increased to four days a week for two months to carry out a specific piece of work," said Mr Pilsbury.

"He has always remained a council employee. We apply similar arrangements in many instances when staff request fewer hours for a variety of reasons. By applying this flexibility we retain good quality people."

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He added: "I do not think it is fair that this particular officer is being used as a political football and I hope this can be an end to the matter."

However some councillors have now told Mr Pilsbury that this was not their understanding and that they had always been led to believe Mr Taylor had quit the council's staff and had been taken on for a 12 month contract, due to end this month.

Councillor Peter Tunley said: "This was accepted by members on the understanding that the contract would not be extended, indeed Councillor Harper (council leader) has advised the Tory group on a number of occasions that under no circumstances would Mr Taylor's contract be extended. He has also made this statement to the press."

Mr Taylor is being deployed by the council to help pinpoint �2 million of potential savings.

Councillor Alan Melton, portfolio holder for finance, said Mr Taylor had been "charged with finding considerable savings in the council".

Cllr Melton said he learned of Mr Taylor's temporary appointment after taking over the finance portfolio last month.

"He's doing a significant job which needs to be done in a short period," said Cllr Melton. "As a local authority we did not have the capacity to do it as quickly and deliver it as quickly as I want.

"I shall be very happy if Mr Taylor comes along at the end of the month and presents me with what I have asked and that is for �2 million worth of savings. I need hardly remind people that an external consultant asked to do the same job would have cost us well into four figures a day."

Cllr Melton said he had given officers at Fenland Council a list of 27 areas to consider where savings might be made.

"No one should doubt our resolve to make these savings," he said. "That is the line I am following, and it will be carried out to the letter. There will be no compromises."

Cllr Melton said both the temporary contract and the annual contract with Mr Taylor would end this month "and there's no plan for either to be renewed".

A council spokesman said: "Mat Taylor is a council employee and there is nothing particularly unusual about the way his contract has been adjusted.

"We are flexible with all our staff and routinely modify people's contracts when it helps us to retain good people and make the best use of their talents.

"Mat's excellent track record at Fenland together with his extensive experience and knowledge is invaluable in helping us to tackle the many challenges we face at the moment."

Councillors plan to raise the appointment at the next Tory group meeting later this month. One council official told me unofficially that "Cllr Melton has a different view to what we have here".

And in Mr Pilsbury's email to councillors he makes it clear that "in this particular issue of employment contract there is no member involvement".

Mr Taylor has also found another job for the remaining one day a week whilst he is here, working for South Kesteven District Council where Fenland's former director Beverley Agass is now chief executive.

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