Concern as Weca pays two chief executives

COUNCILLORS have expressed alarm that the West of England Combined Authority (Weca) is paying two chief executives at the same time without officially explaining why.

Weca audit committee chairman and Bristol Cllr Geoff Gollop, an accountant, says the reasons should have been disclosed in the authority’s annual accounts. 

Instead, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) revealed that Richard Ennis, who received £268,000 in 2022/23, has been paid as interim acting chief exec for the last seven months and counting while the permanent postholder Patricia Greer is on full salary while on long-term sick leave.

Mr Ennis told the committee on July 3, that Weca had been “very open and very public” about the situation, following questions from the LDRS, despite no explanation for the dual payments in the annual draft statement of accounts.

Cllr Gollop (Conservative, Westbury-on-Trym & Henleaze) told the meeting at the combined authority’s new headquarters at Redcliff Street in Bristol city centre that he would not accept or sign off the papers, which go up to March 31, without that.

He said: “I would expect, before we have final accounts presented to us, that there would be a note explaining what has happened, why we continue to pay a chief executive and an interim chief executive, and the accounts need to disclose that because it’s an event that happened in 2022/23.

“I am surprised that has not been discussed at Weca committee in some form – it may have been privately but it certainly hasn’t been discussed at public meetings and there is nothing on record.”

Weca committee is the combined authority’s decision-making body comprising metro mayor Dan Norris and the leaders of its three constituent councils – Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset.

Dr Greer has been on absence through illness since the end of November 2022 and Mr Ennis stepped up to her role on a temporary basis days later from his previous position as interim director of investment and corporate services.

He received £124,467 from the four months between December 1 and March 31 alone while the permanent incumbent was also being paid.

That is as far as the annual accounts go, but Weca confirmed to the LDRS last week that the situation remains the same.

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service