25th May, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: Coventry's public health boss controversially 'seconded' to West Midlands Combined Authority

Les Reid 14th Feb, 2017 Updated: 15th Feb, 2017

COVENTRY City Council’s director of public health has been controversially and quietly seconded to a six-month role at the West Midlands Combined Authority, we can reveal.

The move to the regional body has taken place without any clear public announcement or consultation – and follows the council chief executive Martin Reeves’ similar ‘temporary’ switch to the WMCA since last year.

It is understood Mr Reeves is still being paid £175,000 salary (with additional pension benefits) by Coventry council taxpayers, with acting chief executive Martin Yardley filling in at the Council House.

Some councillors are concerned that Dr Moore’s switch will see Coventry losing out further despite her £120,000 salary – at a time when Coventry continues to tackle important public health challenges including life expectancy and health inequalities, obesity, smoking, teenage pregnancies and other key public health commitments.

Her job description next to her title is given on Coventry City Council’s website as being: “Responsible for the delivery of the Council’s Public Health responsibilities and to improve the health of the population and assume the population’s health is protected.”

An email sent to councillors and other contacts last week, leaked to the Coventry Observer, by Gail Quinton, the council’s executive director people, reads:

“Dear Colleague,

“I am pleased to say that Dr Jane Moore, Director of Public Health, has accepted a six month secondment to the West Midlands Combined Authority to help lead key pieces of work across the region.

“If we are going to deliver the strong economic growth and the radical changes to public services that we have planned, we need to make sure we have the very best public health services possible.

“Jane will act as the as the regional co-ordinator for Directors of Public Health across the region to help create a really strong partnership between Public Health England and the WMCA so we can deliver against our shared objectives.

“Her appointment will make sure we have a strong health and wellbeing focus in all WMCA work and will put prevention and public health at the heart of everything we do.

“I know Jane is excited at the new challenge and we all wish her well.

“She will take up the post from, 6 February, and while she is away, Liz Gaulton will join the People Directorate leadership team as acting Director of Public Health for Coventry.

“Gail, Jane and Liz will be able to provide further information if needed.”

The West Midland Combined Authority was set up in 2015 and is made up of seven full constituent member councils – Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull and the four black country councils. Among non-constituent members are Warwickshire County Council and the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

It was set up to enable local councils in the region to gain control of some Whitehall funding pots and win borrowing powers under a ‘devolution deal’ with government, which has removed around an annual £100million from Coventry City Council’s budget alone since 2010.

Elections for a elected mayor to head the combined authority are due to take place on May 4. Coventry voters in 2012 had voted two-to-one against having a directly elected mayor to run Coventry City Council in a government-enforced referendum, but were denied a say in having a directly elected mayor for the region.

Thousands signed a petition for a referendum over whether people wanted a West Midlands metro mayor, amid concerns Coventry could cede tax-raising, spending and other powers to a ‘greater Birmingham’ authority.

UPDATE:

A Coventry City Council spokesman said: “Dr Jane Moore will be playing an important role for the council and the region. She will also retain some of her Combined Authority public health responsibilities for Coventry. For Coventry’s public health services it is important that we have a strong partnership with Public Health England and public health services provided by regional authorities. Dr Moore’s role will help strengthen this. There will be no additional costs to the council.”