Cornwall Council boss Kevin Lavery defends record on outsourcing
Cornwall Council's departing chief executive has defended his record on privatisation as he prepares to head to fresh pastures in New Zealand.
Kevin Lavery will leave County Hall in Truro in March to take up the post of chief executive of Wellington City Council.
Although his comments on the move, which was outed via social networking websites, have been confined to press releases in Cornwall, Mr Lavery chose to give an extensive interview to the Dominion Post in New Zealand.
He told the newspaper that he was coming to Wellington with an "open mind" and that criticism of his outsourcing council services during his four years as Cornwall Council chief executive was "unfair."
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He said the small amount of outsourcing he had done – in the council's IT department and amalgamating back offices of three health providers and the council – was driven by a 35% drop in central government funding.
Mr Lavery told the paper: "It's not me trying to be theological about outsourcing.
"If I was ideological about it I would have done it four years ago."
Mr Lavery added: "What people in Wellington need to understand is the UK has gone through a massive financial squeeze . . . We have had to make some really, really hard decisions. I make no apologies for doing that."
Compared to England, he said the capital city of New Zealand was in a "great position to grow" and free of most of the financial strain that had forced privatisation in Cornwall.
Mr Lavery acknowledged to the paper that this experience in overseeing the amalgamation of six councils into one unitary authority in Cornwall was probably a factor in his appointment in Wellington. The city is considering adopting different forms of local government, including possible amalgamation. But he said that was not the reason he was appointed, and he did not necessarily back amalgamation.
"For me, Wellington is big enough to pack a big enough punch without amalgamation."
But he said if amalgamation were decided on, he had the skills to make it successful.
Mr Lavery, who has been appointed for five years in Wellington with an annual salary package of NZ$400,000 – around £203,000 and well below his current salary of £245,000.
He confirmed the Wellington council paid for his trip to New Zealand for the job interview on December 17 and agreed to provide a package to move his family, including travel, relocation, and legal costs. Details are yet to be finalised, he said.
Mr Lavery would not disclose relocation costs, nor the cost of his flights. He added that he, his wife Catherine, and sons Daniel, 12, and Jack, 10, would eventually be applying for New Zealand citizenship.