Suffolk County Council chief defends £220k salary

Andrea Hill, Suffolk County Council Andrea Hill said her pay had been frozen for two years

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The chief executive of Suffolk County Council has been defending her £220,000-a-year salary and has spoken about the budget challenges ahead for the authority.

Andrea Hill said cuts in government spending meant the council had to make £43m of savings in 2011/2012.

"People understand that we're not in this position out of the council's choice. We're in it because we've got less money coming in from government," said Ms Hill.

Ms Hill was talking as the local authority prepared to make savings which will take effect in April 2011.

The Conservative-controlled council has estimated that savings of £110m to £125m are needed over the next four years, with up to 1,500 jobs going by April 2012.

Senior council officers in other parts of the UK have taken pay cuts and the size of the Suffolk chief executive's wages is still hitting the headlines three years after she took the job.

Ms Hill, who has been in the role since 2008, said: "That did take me by surprise. After all, I got the job by open competition, but it's a big salary.

"I'm not going to take a pay cut now. I have already shown leadership in this area and taken a pay freeze for two years.

"I didn't do it to make some sort of statement. I did it because it was the right thing to do."

Government grant

The council is looking at a major programme of outsourcing to meet the challenges of a reduced grant from the government.

Ms Hill said: "Since 2005, the council's saved more than £70m in efficiencies, but we can't keep making more and more savings through efficiencies.

"In the end we are going to have to reduce some services and that's an incredibly difficult thing to do.

"My job is to help advise the politicians, but it's the politicians that have to make the tough choices."

The proposed cuts include getting rid of school crossing patrols, cutting the number of public libraries from 44 to 15, transferring the fire control room to Cambridgeshire, reducing the number of waste recycling sites and transferring bus services and the county's 16 care homes to the independent sector.

Public sector rally, Ipswich Public sector workers held a rally in Ipswich in November 2010

The county council is introducing a New Strategic Direction to try and find alternative ways of providing services.

"It's not an experiment. It's a practical response to the fact that there is going to be less money," said Ms Hill.

"The thinking behind it is that other people and social enterprises can delivers services cheaper, on our behalf, than we can.

"We're not outsourcing to the private sector. What we're trying to do is generate a lot of new and existing social enterprises that will provide a strong economy in Suffolk."

Ms Hill told the BBC that, despite some rumours that she is leaving, she is "not looking for another job".

"I don't start something and then walk away from it," she said.

"I've given a commitment to the leader that I'm here to stay and see this through.

"If people come and try to head hunt me then what I'm going to say to them is I need to see this through in Suffolk."

BBC Suffolk's Any Suffolk Questions? programme looking at county council cuts is broadcast at 1800-1900 GMT on Wednesday, 16 February.

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