Regular readers will have seen recent revelations relating to my research of remuneration, recruitment and redundancy at South Kesteven District Council (SKDC).
It came as no surprise that last week the Council announced the appointment of Steve Bowyer as CEO of the newly incorporated InvestSK Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SKDC. Once again the appointment has been made by the Leader, Cllr Matthew Lee, and the Chief Exec of SKDC, without any attempt to advertise the post or undertake any kind of competitive interview process.
InvestSK is an imitation of Opportunity Peterborough which is the long established economic development arm of Peterborough City Council. It is argued that a free-standing company can have more impact on potential investors and employers than a department of the Council. Since last year’s coup d’etat within the SKDC Tory group, the Council has been paying Opportunity Peterborough over £200,000 for vaguely defined consultancy services. Now that the consultants have their feet under the table, a decision has been made to poach their Chief Executive, Steve Bowyer. He will paid a salary ‘commensurate with the role’ which we can assume is well over £100,000 (I have requested the actual figure but I’ve been informed the information is exempt from publication under FoI).
Like so many other recent recruitments, Mr Bowyer is a former colleague of Cllr Lee who was a Director of Opportunity Peterborough from 2010 to 2013. Mr Bowyer does not live in Peterborough or South Kesteven but I am informed that Grantham is closer to his Leicestershire home.
As with other recent recruits, I have no reason to believe Mr Bowyer is not capable of doing the job and one can hardly blame him for taking the job offered to him on a silver platter. I only recall speaking to him once which was about details of the proposed new Deepings Leisure Centre. At that stage he didn’t have any details and suggested I speak to a member of his team who, ironically, is now, I think, technically his boss.
I e-mailed the Council about the recruitment process for this job on 16th July. Cllr Lee issued the curt response that “The post is a matter for the Directors of the Company. “. I made the bold assumption that the decision had already been made at that stage and Cllr Lee didn’t want the decision derailed by such irritations as ‘transparency’ or ‘proper process’. This led me to make an FoI request concerning the appointment which was eventually answered a few days after the SKDC press release concerning Mr Bowyer’s appointment. It’s interesting that the recruitment is a matter for the Directors of the Company but the announcement is a matter for SKDC’s top heavy communications department.
Mr Bowyer’s colleague’s at Opportunity Peterborough have expressed sadness at his planned departure including Tom Hennessy who says on Twitter “Sad Steve is moving on, wishing him all the best. Grateful for the opportunity to step up and excited about what the future holds for us. Big boots to fill, but proud to be part of a talented team working to drive Peterborough forward @OP_Peterborough @UK_Skills “. This prompts further questions because Tom Hennessy is also listed on the InvestSK website as part of the iSK team.
InvestSK Ltd will receive about a million of taxpayers’ money from SKDC this year. It will be very difficult to find out how this money is being spent let alone determine whether the organisation is performing against its nebulous targets. Nevertheless I will do my best to keep asking relevant questions regardless of the smokescreens and bureaucracy put up to prevent meaningful answers.