THE appointment for the role as boss of a new centre to help businesses grow has been called into question.
Craig Humphrey, the current leader of Conservative-run Rugby Borough Council, will take up the £70,000-a-year job as managing director of the Coventry and Warwickshire Clearing House, an off shoot of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
But it has been described as proof of a ‘jobs for the boys culture’ as Coun Humphrey, a former plumber and estate agent, was part of the LEP team that clinched a City Deal from government last December, which gave councils new powers to stimulate the local economy and enabled the formation of the Clearing House.
The LEP has insisted the appointment was made following an extensive search and selection process.
And speaking to The Observer this week, Coun Humphrey himself has rejected scepticism surrounding his appointment to the new role, which pays almost £50,000-a-year more than he currently earns as a councillor and the council leader.
“The unparalleled success Rugby has had over the last four years has gained wider recognition, and some of the talents that I’ve had at my disposal – in having a lean and efficient organisation that’s been able to attract inward investment – was one of the motivations for trying my hand at this role, because that’s exactly what this role entails,” he told us.
“It’s about encouraging inward investment into a wider sub-region that benefits the whole economy. They are transferable skills from running a local authority to running a private limited company.”
Independent Rugby and Warwickshire councillor Howard Roberts said he would be asking some searching questions of the LEP and attacked the outgoing leader’s legacy, saying he has left the council with “years of projected future budget deficits and a fractured senior leadership team”.
Coun Humphrey said: “If he means me leaving will leave a fractured senior management team, well he must be missing me already.
“The senior management team is as strong as ever. Rugby council is as lean and efficient as it’s ever been. I inherited a fishing vessel and I’m leaving a cruise liner. My record stands up to be counted in terms of the level of investment that Rugby has seen.”
Coun Humphrey has been leader of Rugby council since 2002. In 2010 he took on a controversial enhanced role when the council decided not to replace its chief executive – a role which has since been praised in government and peer reviews.
A Labour source in the city told us: “He’s been a force for good and has helped to forge relationships in the Coventry and Warwickshire area. Anyone who criticises his background as a plumber is just a snob.”