COVENTRY City Council’s assistant chief executive Martin Yardley is to join the University of Warwick after taking early retirement next year.
The announcement comes amid controversy over a formal complaint he made about a councillor. It triggered concerns about whether Mr Yardley’s personal and business relationship with his partner – the council’s head of planning Tracy Miller – conflicts with their professional roles as council colleagues.
Mr Yardley, 56, will oversee developments at the university’s Wellesbourne campus, its base for the School of Life Sciences.
As previously announced, he is set to leave the council in April after 12 years, where as Director of Place he has been responsible for the new council headquarters at Friargate, the stalled City Centre South project and much more.
He also leads Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
Mr Yardley’s total remuneration from the council is £151,000 and he will leave with a non-disclosed early-retirement package including pension arrangements.
He was most recently in the news last week concerning his formal complaint about the social media conduct of Councillor Glenn Williams, who in his public response questioned Mr Yardley’s council role in connection with his personal relationship with Ms Miller.
The couple are also joint directors of a planning agency, Nuneaton-based Yardbird Planning Limited, although there is no evidence of wrongdoing or conflict of interest in relation to the firm.
Mr Yardley’s complaint resulted in an inquiry and the council’s ethics committee last week concluding Coun Williams had breached the council’s code of conduct in relation to tweets about planning department failures concerning the council website’s planning portal, which Mr Yardley claimed could implicate Ms Miller. The planning portal – supposed to notify the public of planning applications – had failed 477 times in three months.
Conservative councillor Tim Mayer and other social media commenters claimed the charges were grossly trumped-up and overblown, and an abuse of the council’s standards and disciplinary procedures.
Responding to questions from the Coventry Observer, a spokesperson for Coventry City Council said: “Two members of staff in a relationship does not contravene any code of conduct at Coventry City Council and every member of staff is recruited to their role through a robust and impartial recruitment process.
“With regards to Mr Yardley and Miss Miller, both members of staff have always been open and transparent and declared any declarable interests annually as they, and indeed any officer, would need to do.”
Mr Yardley, who trained as a town planner, joined Walsall Council after completing an MBA at the University of Warwick.
A spokesperson for the University of Warwick said: “Martin will take up the new role in April when he steps down from his role as Executive Director of Place at Coventry City Council at the end of March 2020. The role will be part-time as he will also be remaining in his position at Coventry and Warwickshire LEP.
“He will spearhead the development of the University’s Wellesbourne Campus, one of the region’s most important research and development focused investment sites.
Mr Yardley said: “I have really enjoyed my time with Coventry City Council and I have been very lucky to work on a number of exciting projects but felt the time was right for me to move on and take on a new challenge.
“The CWLEP has played a huge role in boosting the area’s economy and clearly the Wellesbourne Campus has a very exciting commercial future, so I am looking forward to continuing to help Coventry and Warwickshire prosper through achieving its potential.”
He moved to Coventry City Council in 2007, and was acting chief executive during 2016 and 2017 when chief executive Martin Reeves was seconded to establish the West Midlands Combined Authority.