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Finance director quits Surrey County Council amid claims authority 'does not have sustainable budgets'; One county councillor said the finance director resigning is a "warning that you need to take account of".

Byline: Rebecca Curley

Concerns over how Surrey County Council is to meet savings targets of [pounds sterling]250 million over the next three years without a finance director in post have been raised.

Sheila Little left on Friday (July 6), with councillors being given just 24 hours notice she would be leaving.

Speaking at theSurrey County Council(SCC) full council meeting on Tuesday (July 10),Councillor Robert Evans said all members received an email informing them of her departure just the day before she left.

Ms Little resigned and an interim finance director is in place as it could take up to six months to find a replacement.

Cllr Andrew Povey said her departure should be seen as a "warning" for the council and the financial problems it was facing.

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He said the council's budget problems were like a "white elephant" in the room no-one was talking about.

He said: "The county council does not have sustainable budgets. Since 2016 we have been trying to avoid the issue.

"I am concerned. I have been in business for 30 years and one thing in business you learn over everything else is that you follow the money.

"You take it to bed with you. You take the medium term financial strategy to bed with you to read again and again.

"Those that don't end up like Carillion or Northamptonshire County Council.

"I said before that some red lights have been flashing that should be warning members of what's happening.

"We've just had another one. A finance director leaving at short notice is another warning that you need to take account of."

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He asked how the millions of pounds of savings, previously reported as [pounds sterling]250 million in the next three years, will be met.

Cllr David Hodge, leader of SCC, said: "Like all employees, if an employee decides I'd like to leave there are certain times when it's best for that person to move on.

"In this case, the director of finance felt it was right that someone else was here to take over and work with us on the transformation plan."

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He said an ex-senior finance director will be coming in to "help sort it out".

Under section 151 of the Local Government Act 1972, the council is required to nominate an officer to be responsible for the proper administration of its financial affairs.

It could take up to six months to get a new director in post. As a short-term plan councillors agreed at the full council meeting on Tuesday to appoint Kevin Kilburn, currently deputy chief finance officer, to the interim post.

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A second report is due back to full council in October with details of a longer-term plan.

A SCC spokesman said: "We've embarked upon a comprehensive transformation programme to deliver the best outcomes for our residents and this is requiring a new approach across the county council.

"Sheila Little has decided that this is a good time for her to pursue other opportunities and we wish her well with these.

"We'll be recruiting to the post of director of finance as soon as possible."

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Cllr Povey said a finance director leaving is a "warning that you need to take account of"
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Publication:Get Surrey (Surrey, England)
Date:Jul 11, 2018
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