Councillors have unanimously ratified the appointment of Dr Martin Reeves as the new Chief Executive of Oxfordshire County Council – even if there was mild disagreement over how long it took.
Dr Martin Reeves is set to switch from the same role at Coventry City Council, a post he has held since 2009, after the move was confirmed at a meeting of the full council on Tuesday, 13 December. His start date can now be decided.
The county’s remuneration committee – a cross-party panel of leading councillors tasked with handling the recruitment process for any chief officer roles – recommended Dr Reeves’s appointment and his designation as returning officer – the person responsible for overseeing county council elections.
It also supported an annual salary of £225,000, up from £185,000 following “an externally commissioned salary benchmark review”, which involved “consideration of subsequent national pay awards and comparable national roles” where appointments have been made recently.
Councillor Liz Leffman (Lib Dem, Charlbury & Wychwood), leader of the county council, described a “very long and very thorough search process”, which started as a result of the split from a shared services arrangement with Cherwell District Council.
It meant the then-chief executive of both councils, Yvonne Rees, reverted to her initial post with the district in February. Stephen Chandler, then the county’s director of adult social care, stepped up on a temporary basis while a permanent successor for the county only was sought.
Councillor Leffman reflected on the “excellent job” done by Mr Chandler, recording her thanks for his services.
Councillor Eddie Reeves (Con, Banbury Calthorpe), leader of the opposition, served on the remuneration committee and commented on how it had “worked extremely well during the course of this appointment”, paying tribute to fellow members and other councillors who had “participated in what was a very thorough recruitment process”.
He described Dr Reeves, who is no relation to Councillor Reeves, as the “outstanding candidate” but added: “I do hope this is the last occasion where this council is without a permanent chief executive for some 12 months.
“It is a point I made back in February, and it is a point I make again now. We should have recruited for the post far more quickly than we did, but nonetheless, we welcome Dr Martin Reeves when he arrives.”
Councillor Leffman added: “I am very pleased the proposal has the support of councillors. I would like to reiterate what Councillor Reeves said, that the remuneration committee was very much a cross-party committee. We worked very well together.
“The officers were very helpful in everything they did during this process, and while I agree with Councillor Reeves that it took rather longer than we had hoped – we had hoped to resolve this within six months – it was really (down to) the fact that previous chief executives had been appointed without any proper scrutiny of salaries and of the role in general.
“It meant that we had to go right back to basics and look at how we compared with other councils. We did a thorough review of where we stood in relation to other councils to make sure we were offering the right package and that we would get the right person for the job.
“I think it has been a very successful process, I completely agree with Councillor Reeves that we hopefully won’t have to go through this process again for a very long time.”