July 20, 2012
Cheshire East Council has announced that Chief Executive Ms Erika Wenzel left the Council by mutual agreement on 30 June, 2012, following a period of sickness absence.
Erika was appointed to the role in October, 2008, prior to the formation of the new Cheshire East Council in April, 2009. She led the authority through the transition from two-tier local government, bringing together the former boroughs of Crewe and Nantwich, Macclesfield and Congleton along with half of the Cheshire County Council, to form the new unitary authority of Cheshire East.
As Chief Executive of the third largest unitary authority in the North West, she led on partnership working and was instrumental in facilitating the relocation of several large international companies to the area. She was pivotal in driving forward a large-scale change initiative that focussed on practical ways of reducing harm to health caused by alcohol.
She was also committed to a cultural change programme aimed at ensuring delivery of first class-services for the residents of Cheshire East.
Councillor Michael Jones, Leader of Cheshire East Council, said: "I had limited experience of working with Erika, but I have huge respect for anyone who has built a business from scratch and people tell me that she achieved much in those first three years.
“I now wish her a speedy recovery and I am sure that that she will see that the hard work and commitment that she gave to the Council will provide a solid foundation for great things to come.
“I am pleased that a mutual agreement has been reached with Ms Wenzel. I am fully aware that the amount of £93,550 that has been agreed for Erika’s departure will give rise to much comment.
“It should be noted that a substantial element of this relates to contractual notice and I would point out that this is significantly less than the average of £256,000 paid in respect of chief executives who left their posts by agreement as revealed in the most recent study by the Audit Commission, and vastly less than the £589k that Kent County Council’s Chief Executive recently received.
“I do appreciate though that, in these austere times, many people may feel that this is still a lot of money, but I can promise that we have given careful thought and consideration as to what will give the best outcome for the taxpayers of Cheshire East.
Councillor Wesley Fitzgerald, former leader of Cheshire East Council, added: “Erika and I worked closely together over the last three and a half years forming the new Council that is Cheshire East.
“I would like to pay tribute to the diligence and hard work that she put into the birth of the new Council and in helping to bring together the different cultures and ways of working. Cheshire East is still a young Council, growing and learning and maturing but with a great future and I am proud to have led it, with Erika, to where it is today.
“When I look back, the last three or so years have been the first era of this great Council and it is now time for a new era to commence with a mature vision. I add my wishes to her for a speedy recovery.”
Erika Wenzel said: "I have enjoyed immensely my time at Cheshire East Council. In October 2008 I was the sole employee of Cheshire East Council. Over the coming months more people joined me and one of my proudest moments was when I walked through the doors of Westfields in Sandbach on 1 April 2009 as Chief Executive of the brand-new Cheshire East Council.
“Looking back, the challenges and success were equal, in particular, bringing together four different cultures and ways of working was as challenging as it was enjoyable.
“I am so proud of the staff at Cheshire East, who never ceased to amaze me with their hard work, tenacity and commitment. Without their support, my job would have been a lot harder and I would like to thank them personally. I look forward to watching Cheshire East Council grow and I wish them every success for the future.”
A recent review by the Audit Commission found 37 council bosses left their jobs by ’mutual agreement’. Their severance packages cost on average, £256,104 or 1.8 times basic salary. Once payments to pension schemes are removed from this, it still amounted to an average of 1.1 times basic salary. Kent County Council’s Chief Executive has recently left with a package of £589,000.
The final amount of £93,550 agreed by Cheshire East Council for the departure of their Chief Executive was significantly less than either of these amounts (equating to just under 6.5 months salary). The ex gratia element of the package paid to Ms Wenzel, of £50,000, falls well within the Council's published formula for making such payments which applies to all members of staff.
The Council is committed to complying with the new transparency obligations in relation to severance packages for senior staff and chief executives in particular and full details will be published in accordance with the relevant statutory requirements.