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Scandal-torn County to vote on New Chief Exec appointment


Angie Ridgwell
Angie Ridgwell
Chris Satori

The county council's employment committee has agreed to recommend the appointment of Angie Ridgwell (53) as interim Chief Executive and Director of Resources of Lancashire County Council, subject to the recommendation being accepted by Full Council later on today (26 October).

The appointment comes after a surprise corporate shake up in August which the County Council's Conservative Leader, Cllr Geoff Driver, was accused of seeking to force out the former chief executive Jo Turton with a new top management structure.

Police Investigation led to officers being barred from meetings

In July, Driver had banned Ms Turton and four other senior staff from all briefings which he attends. It was understood that this was because they might be called as witnesses in the current police investigation into Driver who is currently out on bail untill 22 November following his arrest in May in relation to the BT One Connect scandal, allegedly for 'conspiring to pervert the course of justice and intimidating witnesses'. 

Questions have also been raised into a series of hefty payments authorised by Cllr Driver without the County Treasurer's knowledge, totalling over £500,000 to David McElhinney, the boss of One Connect, on top of his agreed salary with generous benefits. At the time McElhinney was also recieving a salary for a similar contract with Liverpool City Council. 

Former LCC Chief Executive Phil Halsall (previously Finance Director at Liverpool CC) is also on bail with Cllr Driver. Ms Turton was appointed following his suspension in relation to the same scandal. 

Candidate's background

The County Council will be voting on whether to approve the appointment of Angie Ridgwell, who most recently has been Director General, Corporate Services at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, since October 2016.

Prior to this she was Director General for Finance and Corporate Services at the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Before joining central government, Ms Ridgwell was Strategic Director for Corporate Services and Strategic Director of Organisational Design for Bristol City Council. She has had a career working with a range of local authorities, government agencies and the private sector.

She may have some sympathy with Ms Turton. In 2008 she became the second CE to leave Thurrock Council in 3 years, after an alleged 'falling out' with the Conservative Leader there, leaving with a payoff thought to be in excess of £330k

Leader of the council, County Councillor Geoff Driver CBE, said: "We had an excellent field of candidates and it is testament to Angie's considerable range of knowledge and experience that the committee felt able to appoint her.

"This is a crucial time for the county council, as we face an unprecedented financial challenge. Our restructure of senior management recognises that challenge and required us to find an exceptional candidate, someone who not only has highly developed skills as a visionary leader, but also has the necessary professional finance qualifications and experience of managing the finances of a major organisation.

"Angie fulfils both of those criteria and I'm confident that she can lead us through the implementation of the restructure, and more importantly, play a key role as we plan a positive course through the challenges we face to enable the county council to continue providing key services to the people of Lancashire."

Ms Ridgwell said of her appointment: "I'm extremely proud to be joining Lancashire County Council, one of the largest local authorities in the country, in this exciting new role of interim Chief Executive and Director of Resources.

"I am under no illusions about the scale of the challenge ahead and I am sure that the county council's members and employees have the passion, commitment and expertise to rise to that challenge and continue to provide the services that the people of Lancashire value so much."

Should the recommendation be accepted by Full Council, Ms Ridgwell is expected to take up the position early in the New Year.