St Helens Council part ways with interim assistant chief executive

Keith Ireland
Keith Ireland

A consultant brought in to help with the modernisation of St Helens Council will leave this week, as the chief executive also prepares to depart.

Keith Ireland joined the council in April as an interim assistant chief executive in response to recommendations by the Local Government Association.

In July the council unveiled its ‘One Council’ modernisation plans and agreed to make the role permanent, at a salary of up to £110,000.

Mr Ireland’s contract was due to end on July 31 but his contract was extended while the council sought to fill the post permanently,

St Helens Council have now confirmed it has parted ways with Mr Ireland.

A council spokesman said: “Keith Ireland’s contract as interim assistant chief executive has now come to an end, and he has left the council.”

The news comes following the announcement that current chief executive Mike Palin would leave the council at the end of this week.

A council source claimed Mr Ireland’s departure is not directly linked to that of the chief executive, insisting now is a “natural time for him to move on”.

Additionally, a council spokesman said Mr Ireland’s contract has come to its “natural end”.

Labour councillors were informed of the departure by council leader David Baines in an email on Monday evening.

“His contract has been terminated and he has agreed not to work his notice period,” Coun Baines wrote in the email, which has been seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

“He will be producing handover documents and it’s my full intention for the One Council modernisation programme to continue.”

Mr Ireland was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year honours list for his services to local government in relation to his work at City of Wolverhampton Council, where he was managing director from 2014 until 2018.

Prior to coming to St Helens, Mr Ireland was the chief executive of Lincolnshire County Council.

He left the role last November after just four months at the helm.

Lincolnshire County Council’s legally required statement of accounts revealed Mr Ireland was paid £292,263 by the authority during that time – around £1,234 a day.

At the time, Lincolnshire County Council said the decision to part with Mr Ireland was a mutual decision

Mr Ireland joined St Helens Council in April, working four days per week as he still lives in Wolverhampton.

In July a Freedom of Information request revealed the council was forking out £930 a day for Mr Ireland’s services. This is the total consultancy fee and not what Mr Ireland is paid per day.

St Helens Council said at the time that the fee was “in line” with fees paid by councils and other public sector organisations nationally.

Although tasked with leading St Helens Council’s modernisation programmes, Mr Ireland did not have a formal job description.