LETTER OF THE WEEK: County chief’s departure has raised lots of questions

Chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council, Dr Paul Blantern
Chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council, Dr Paul Blantern

I am very puzzled by the sudden departure, by apparent resignation, of Dr Paul Blantern, the chief executive of our county council, who left his post on October 13 having been the authority’s chief executive since 2007.

According to Dr Blantern’s own statement he met with the leader of the council Heather Smith around the end of September.

In that meeting they both agreed “that having overseen the move to our new headquarters building, completing the recruitment and design of our new management team and having transformed the operating model of the council, now would be an appropriate time for me to leave the organisation to take on new challenges”.

Has this not all contributed to the parlous financial state of the council?

No statement appears to have emanated from the council or leader but there jolly well should be.

1) How much did all these changes cost and for what tangible benefits?

Why are the county council and their leader speaking out?

Why is Dr Blantern’s departure so sudden?

A person who has been in post for 10 years or so would normally be required to give far more notice of his departure than up to two weeks.

2) How much is Dr Blantern’s departure costing us?

What are the FULL terms and costs of any financial package, pension payments or other benefits in kind?

3) How much is it going to cost in finding a replacement or retaining recruitment specialists or advertising consultants or packages in order to find Dr Blantern’s successor?

4) How long has the council leader and/or other cabinet members or senior staff known of Dr Blantern’s likely departure?

5) What arrangements have been made for somebody to fill in his post in an acting capacity?

6) How much is all that including the engagement of any temporary staff going to cost? How long is it likely to take before a permanent replacement is appointed?

7) Has Dr Blantern already found a new position – or more than one – to take up? When were the council notified by Dr Blantern?

8) If Dr Blantern has or is searching for a new post the county council must surely have been approached for a reference and known about it.

Why has the county council apparently been so silent at this time and why has so short a period of notice been allowed from Dr Blantern?

9) In my experience in the law it was unusual – save in exceptional or extraordinary circumstances – for so short a period of notice as two weeks to be allowed to be given by an employee in such a senior post as that of chief executive occupied by Dr Blantern.

Notice periods of a month or more were the norm.

What are the circumstances in Dr Blantern’s case?

The residents of the county deserve an explanation covering all the questions above in full detail.

Helen E Jackson

By email