New chief executive appointed at Hertfordshire County Council

Owen Mapley and councillor David Williams. Picture: Supplied.

Owen Mapley and councillor David Williams. Picture: Supplied. - Credit: Archant

The next chief executive of Hertfordshire County Council has been appointed – earning him more than the Prime Minster as he rakes in £180,000 a year.

Owen Mapley, who is currently the council’s director of resources, had already been through a rigorous selection process, including assessment exercises and interviews, as well as ‘stakeholder’ sessions and meetings with groups of staff.

He had been unanimously selected by a cross-party interview panel, which included the leaders of the political parties.

Mr Mapley could not be offered the £180,000-a-year role until last Thursday, when his appointment was backed by the council.

Following the meeting Mr Mapley – who joined Hertfordshire in 2016 from the Senior Civil Service – said he was “thrilled” by the decision.

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He will take over from John Wood, who has spent 27 years with the council – the last six as chief executive – early next year.

At the meeting, council leader David Williams told members the role had been seen as a “plum job in local government”. And, he said, the shortlist had included four existing chief executives and one former chief executive.

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He did note that some people had been put off because Hertfordshire is a two-tier authority – operating district and borough councils, as well as the county.

Councillor Williams also said that he had been disappointed there had been no female candidates.

Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition in Herts, said that the inclusion of all three political parties in the appointment process reflected the “maturity” of the Conservative-controlled authority.

He said: “Quite clearly a strong field applied. We have appointed quite clearly the right person to take this authority forward, in what will be a testing time.”

At the meeting 60 councillors voted in favour of the appointment. One voted against and one abstained.

Labour county councillor Joshua Bennett-Lovell, who represents the Old Stevenage division, said his objection was not to Mr Mapley’s appointment, but to the size of the £180,000 salary – which is more than the salary of the Prime Minister.

“Is the chief executive really doing a job that’s six times more dangerous or challenging than a firefighter?” he asked. “Is it 10 times more gruelling than a care worker?”

Mr Bennett-Lovell added: “The average wage of a firefighter in the UK stands at around £30,000, under £17,000 for a care worker, and £30,000 for social workers.

“All of these roles share three major things in common – in Hertfordshire many of them are employed by Herts County Council, most of them haven’t seen real-terms pay rises for around a decade, and they all earn wages that are fractions of our chief executive’s – despite working in such challenging, stressful, and life-threatening situations.

“I want to make it clear this in no way reflects my feelings of this person (Mr Mapley), but my anger with a system that has fixed the lowest wages, while it unshackles the highest.”

Councillor Williams pointed out that the salary – which was also agreed at the meeting – was actually less than that paid to other local authority chief executives, including Hackney, Essex and Islington.

Councillor Richard Roberts, executive member for public health and prevention, said that in recent years the salary of the chief executive had actually decreased.

During his nine years with the Senior Civil Service Mr Mapley held roles at the Home Office, HM Courts Service and the Legal Aid Agency. He spent the first 12 years of his career at PwC.

At the council, he is currently the chief finance officer. He is also chief officer responsible for Hertfordshire Libraries and Heritage Services.

Mr Mapley, who has lived in Hertfordshire for 18 years, said: “I am very proud to be appointed as the next chief executive for the county council.

“Having close ties to Hertfordshire both personally and professionally, I look forward to working with councillors, staff, residents and partners to deliver the wide range of important services that we all rely on.”

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