Cheshire East Council has insisted it is business as usual following the suspension of top boss Mike Suarez last week.
Chief executive Mr Suarez was suspended from his £153,000 post on full pay while an independent investigation is undertaken into concerns about officer conduct.
His deputy, Kath O’Dwyer, has been made acting chief exec and she will see her salary boosted by nearly £1,300 a month during Mr Suarez’ absence.
Ms O’Dwyer said: “The leader of the council has asked me to cover the chief executive’s responsibilities in Mike Suarez’s absence. This brings an additional salary cost of £1,291.83 per month.
“Cheshire East Council’s leadership team will ensure that the council continues to deliver high quality services for the residents of Cheshire East.”
The acting chief executive insisted the suspension of the chief executive would not impact on its devolution talks. The council is looking at a devolution deal with Cheshire West & Chester and Warrington Borough councils.
The item was originally scheduled to be discussed at last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting - the day Mr Suarez was suspended - but was not on the agenda.
Ms O’Dwyer said: “The decision to move cabinet’s consideration of devolution from April’s cabinet agenda to May’s cabinet agenda is not related to the work of the investigation and disciplinary committee.
“Cheshire East Council continues to work with partners towards developing a devolution deal that offers the best possible deal for our residents. The suspension of the chief executive will not impact on this work.”
The council has suspended its chief executive following concerns over officer ‘conduct’.
Mike Suarez, who took over the role at Cheshire East Council four years ago, was suspended following a two-day meeting of the investigation and disciplinary committee.
A statement issued by Cheshire East Council said Mr Suarez was suspended ‘after concerns about officer conduct were considered’ at the two day meeting at Macclesfield Town Hall.
The suspension will remain in place while an independent investigation is undertaken.
Councillor Howard Murray, chair of the investigation and disciplinary committee, said: “We would stress that suspension is a neutral act taken in the interests of both the council and chief executive. It is important that this investigation is undertaken objectively and therefore it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage.”
Coun Nick Mannion, Cheshire East councillor for Macclesfield West and Ivy, said it’s the latest in a series of instances which will have a negative impact on the council.
He said: “This matter needs to be sorted soon as possible. This is the latest in a series of instances at the council which will have had a negative impact for staff councillors and residents. We need to support the officers who are working hard to provide services to residents at this difficult time.
“There have been a succession of crises which have created a negative perception of the council.”
Mr Suarez was appointed as the council’s chief executive in May 2013. He joined from his role as finance direct at Lambeth Council after being chosen out of 22 applicants.
The selection process involved discussions with representatives of local partner organisations and businesses, as well as meetings to which all elected members of the council were invited, including meetings with the cabinet and a cross party member group.
Mr Suarez took over the role from interim boss Kim Ryley, who held the position for a year after Erika Wenzel stepped down in July 2012.
FRONT line staff at Cheshire East must be reassured and supported by councillors following the suspension of the council’s chief executive, Labour has said.
The group, which has said it would be inappropriate to comment on the suspension of Mike Suarez at the moment, said it is the workers who need support as the council ‘continues to stumble from fiasco to disaster’.
Macclesfield councillor Nick Mannion said: “This is the latest in a long line of incidents that has reflected very badly on the council’s reputation, yet nothing seems to have been learned, as the council continues to stumble from fiasco to disaster.
“And there appears to be no consequences for those who have been at the very top of the political leadership.”
Crewe councillor Steve Hogben said: “At this very difficult time we must give our full support for the front line staff at the council, as they will be suffering yet more anxiety and uncertainty, whilst continuing to deliver vital services to Cheshire East residents 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”