Nathan Elvery

Senior district council role for former chief exec

A senior role at South Holland District Council has been given to the former head of an organisation which had a ‘significant bullying problem.’

Nathan Elvery was the chief executive of West Sussex County Council but left last November with a £265,000 pay out.

A report for the Department for Education said the council had a bullying problem that was ‘modelled from the top of the organisation.’

The report, written by the commissioner for children’s services in West Sussex, John Coughlan said: “The chief executive wished to stress there have been no complaints or grievances against him personally.”

Mr Elvery has now been appointed as interim Head of Paid Services at South Holland and Breckland District Councils, working two days a week.

His appointment was approved by members of both councils on October 8.

He left his previous job after being away from his post for two months on full pay. He also received a £265,000 payout – the equivalent of 16 months pay. 

The leader of the council, Louise Goldsmith, stepped down in October when a summary of the report by Mr Coughlan was made public.

“Nathan Elvery has been appointed to the interim role of Strategic Advisor to the council and will cover the statutory role of Head of Paid Service. His position will be shared by South Holland and our partner, Breckland District Council, for two days a week through until the end of March, at which point the position will be reviewed,” said a spokesman for South Holland District Council.

The cost of his package will be split between the two councils, although his salary has not been revealed.

He has not been employed as a replacement for former chief executive Anna Graves who has left the role.

“Mr Elvery was recruited through a national agency and as such it would not be appropriate to disclose commercially sensitive details. However, we can confirm that this role will be picked up as part of our current budget and will be split between South Holland and Breckland councils,” added the spokesman.

Mr Elvery’s departure from  West Sussex also came after a leaked report suggested the authority should lose control of its children’s services.

An Ofsted report had said in May 2019 that children’s social care services were inadequate and they are being transferred to an independent trust.

The report for the Department for Education last October said: “While there was no doubting the sincere regret at the situation, no senior person expressed a credible sense of direct accountability for the failure, neither did those within the children’s services department, where there was a strong sense the problems lay elsewhere. There is a striking absence of any direct ownership of the failings.”

The summary of the same report said there had been inadequate and ineffective leadership of Children’s Services ‘for some years now’ and it added: “The conditions required to support the essential sustainable improvement in West Sussex Children’s Services, regrettably, do not currently exist with the county council.”The report added that “other troubles appear to be increasing around the council,” which was seeing “an alarming rate of corporate senior management church which, I would suggest, can only reflect a deepy unstable organisation.”

There is undoubtedly a clear, shared perception, among several current and former members of staff, recognised by external stakeholders, of a significant bullying problem.

South Holland District Council did confirm that there was no relocation payout to Mr Elvery as part of the appointment package, but it wasn’t clear if he has moved to either Lincolnshire or Norfolk from his Surrey home.

The spokesman added it was felt Mr Elvery had the right skills and experience.

“Mr Elvery will be providing strategic advice and focusing on project work, rather than delivering the council’s business-as-usual services. He was appointed following a joint appointment panel containing councillors from both controlling and opposition parties who, having done due diligence in researching the candidate felt that Mr Elvery has the skills and experience we need to help both our councils move forward,” said the South Holland spokesperson.

The full report into children’s services at West Sussex County Council October 2019 can be found here.

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