Caroline Simpson chesire east

Promotion for officer in charge of Cheshire East local plan

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Caroline Simpson, director of economic growth and prosperity, is expected to move into a more senior role at the council, giving her greater responsibility and a £30,000 pay increase.

The position of executive director of economic growth and prosperity is being discussed as a replacement of Simpson's current title, and will come with a senior manager pay grade of between £110,000 and £120,000, plus performance related pay of £10,000. Simpson is understood to currently earn around £90,000 a year.

The council's proposal to move Simpson into a more senior role has drawn criticism from local councillors, as she was the officer responsible for the creation of Cheshire East's stalled local plan which has so far cost £3.7m. Cllr Brian Silvester, UKIP member for Willaston & Rope, said "the Conservative councillors have taken leave of their senses".

However, the council defended the "significance" of Simpson's directorship in a report before the full council meeting on 11 December, citing the importance of her role in HS2 negotiations and the wider regeneration potential of the region set out in the local plan. It also justified the pay grade associated with the executive director position following £5m in savings made through reductions to senior and middle management throughout 2013.

The report said that a future executive director would oversee the delivery of "hundreds of millions of pounds" of infrastructure investment, particularly in relation to HS2, as well as liaising with the Government to lever additional resources and devolution of responsibilities.

The new role would be "ring fenced to enable the consideration of existing employees" for the job, according to the report. The council's staffing committee will now meet to consider recommendations with regard to the appropriate appointment procedure.

As the process will see the deletion of the director role, the council is following appropriate HR procedures, as Simpson will be technically "at risk" of redundancy in her current position as director, until she is officially appointed to another position.

In an interview with BBC Radio Manchester on 16 December, council leader Cllr Michael Jones outlined Simpson's prominence in securing Crewe as the location for the HS2 Northern hub station, and activity around Manchester Science Partnerships' Alderley Park. On the potential pay rise, he said: "She was always underpaid for the role she was doing… compared to the marketplace she is vastly underpaid, even at the new level.

"She will have more responsibility… almost double working on the HS2 proposition alone."

Simpson was formerly head of partnerships at the North West Development Agency.

There was no further comment from Cheshire East Council at the time of publication.

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