THE DEPARTING chief executive of Cornwall Council has defended his record as he prepares for a new job in New Zealand.
As previously reported, after days of confusion Kevin Lavery confirmed on Christmas Eve that he would be leaving to take up a new post as chief executive of Wellington City Council.
And while he has declined to speak with any newspaper in Cornwall since rumours of his departure first leaked out, he found time to carry out an interview with the Dominion Post in the New Zealand capital.
When the West Briton tried to contact Mr Lavery the press office at Cornwall Council said he was "away".
Mr Lavery will leave his job at County Hall – where he benefits from a £245,000 a year salary package – in March, to take up the position in Wellington on a package worth approximately £203,000 a year.
In the interview, he denied his attempts to privatise council services were "ideological" despite the fact he has written a book on the benefits of outsourcing contracts from local government to private companies.
Mr Lavery told the paper: "It's not me trying to be theological about outsourcing. If I was ideological about it I would have done it four years ago."
He said criticism of his outsourcing of council services during his four years as Cornwall Council chief executive was "unfair".
Mr Lavery is acknowledged as the man behind failed plans to further privatise swathes of services in Cornwall. The plans were thrown out by councillors and their defeat also saw former leader Alec Robertson ousted.
Mr Lavery said: "What people in Wellington need to understand is the UK has gone through a massive financial squeeze ... We have had to make some really, really hard decisions. I make no apologies for doing that."
Mr Lavery published a book called Smart Contracting For Local Government Services in 1999 in which he concluded that contracting out of services from local councils had to be "professionalised".
He confirmed Wellington council paid for his trip to New Zealand for the job interview on December 17 and agreed to provide a package to move his family, including travel, relocation, and legal costs. Details are yet to be finalised, he said.
Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown said Mr Lavery had "interviewed well" and impressed colleagues.
She said she had personally checked the credentials of the new Wellington chief by talking to politicians at Cornwall Council including leader Jim Currie and his predecessor Mr Robertson.
She said: "The main role of a local authority chief executive is to implement the decisions of the elected mayor and councillors and Kevin will continue to do that in Wellington."