CORNWALL Council's chief executive is leaving the authority for a new post in New Zealand. Announcing he had formally accepted the role as chief executive of Wellington City Council, Kevin Lavery, said he would be leaving towards the end of March.
He said: "When I was appointed in November 2008, the new unitary council was facing a number of challenges. I said then that I wanted to build a distinctive council that reflected Cornwall's proud heritage and culture. A Council that was delivering high quality services and great value for money and which was meeting the needs of local residents.
"Four years later I am proud to say that, despite the additional challenges created by the financial situation, we are well on the way to achieving this aim and I am confident that we have the right foundations in place to create a bright future for the Council and for Cornwall."
Jim Currie, who was appointed leader of Cornwall Council after the privatisation row that ousted his predecessor Alec Robertson, said : "He is a towering figure who has not been afraid to make difficult decisions. However, while he will undoubtedly be missed, he has left behind a strong management team and an experienced and knowledgeable set of elected members."
Councillors have expressed concern over the possibility of a "golden goodbye" for Mr Lavery - with memories still lingering of the estimated £500,000 pay-off for the previous Cornwall County Council boss, Sheila Healy.
The terms of the offer, according to New Zealand's Dominion Post newspaper, include a salary of $420,000 NZ dollars - worth approximately £215,000 a year.
Jeremy Rowe, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall, said : "Liberal Democrats will be seeking to ensure that there is a smooth transition to his replacement and we will be expecting Mr Lavery to work out his full notice period with no golden goodbye."
He added that the council should look at the merits of doing-away with the chief executives role to cut costs as suggested by Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Rob Nolan (Lib Dem), Cornwall Council member for Truro Boscawen, backed Mr Pickle's suggestion saying: "It makes sense to me and would save £240,000 a year."
However, Mr Rowe believed it should stay, saying: "It would be foolish not to look at that route, but as a large unitary authority I think it needs a chief executive. In the past three and half years there has been a great deal of political volatility and if there is a vacuum in the political arm we need a leader on the permanent staff."