CONCERNS have been raised over the loss of Coventry City Council’s £150,000-salaried finance director post – with Chris West departing after his instrumental role in the Ricoh Arena dispute.
Opposition councillors raised their concerns to the Coventry Observer as the council confirmed Mr West – a former director of Arena Coventry Limited alongside council chief executive Martin Reeves – is leaving after three decades, and his post will not be continued.
Mr West was a central figure in legal disputes with Coventry City Football Club’s owners before the controversial Ricoh sale to Wasps in 2014, which is the subject of ongoing High Court legal action.
The director of finance post has long been considered the most important officer post behind the role of chief executive.
The non-replacement of Mr West comes as the organisation is seeking to make six-figure savings with a restructure of top management.
The council confirmed Mr West, whose full title is ‘director of finance and executive director of resources’, will leave by the end of the month after 32 years’ service.
The council’s budget for 2017/8 being finalised at a full council meeting today – which includes further jobs and services cuts in an era of government funding reductions to local authorities – will be Mr West’s tenth.
Conservative group leader, councillor John Blundell, said his group had raised concerns over the council’s private plans to discontinue the role, and have the functions shared between the people directorate’s Gail Quinton and acting chief executive Martin Yardley. Mr Yardley himself is filling in for £200,000-earning Mr Reeves who also works for the West Midlands Combined Authority.
Coun Blundell said: “Obviously it’s a saving, but there is concern it would remove financial control from two large spending directorates.
“This is a Labour group decision and we have raised our concerns. We have been told it could change back if it does not work out.”
Mr Reeves said: “Over the past ten years, Chris has skilfully managed the council’s finances during a period of national austerity and a turbulent time for local government funding.
“He has always been passionate about the city and his commitment to his senior role in the organisation.”
A council spokesman said In a note to staff Mr Reeeves thanked Mr West for his ‘support and hard work’.
We are told Mr West also messaged staff explaining that it had been a’ difficult decision’.
He added: “It’s been a hard decision, but I am feeling the pace of working so intensively for so long. There are also a number of personal factors that make now the right time to leave.”
Labour councillor John Mutton, finance cabinet member, said Mr West would be a big loss to the council: “I have known Chris for many years and know how committed he has been to his role as senor finance officer. It will be a big gap to fill but I wish him well.
“I’ve enjoyed his friendship and have always shared his commitment to the city.”