There have been calls for an independent investigation into a ‘relocation allowance’ given to the chief executive of West Sussex County Council.
Nathan Elvery was granted a reported £47,500 to help him move house after he left Croydon Council in 2016 on top of his £190,000 a year salary.
While the council insisted the payment was ‘fully in line with policy’, Land Registry documents confirmed Mr Elvery still owned his home in Epsom, Surrey, as well as his new flat in Southgate, Chichester.
At a meeting of the governance committee on Monday (January 21), Lionel Barnard, chairman of the council, said he had asked Heather Daley, director of human resources, to ‘investigate this matter and let us have her report’.
Once that was done, he would decide what action, if any, should be taken.
But, with Ms Daley having worked with Mr Elvery at Croydon Council, questions were asked about whether she should be involved.
Sue Mullins (Lab, Northgate & West Green) asked for an ‘independent person from the outside’ to be given the task, adding that Ms Daley’s involvement ‘might be seen as far too close for comfort’.
Dr James Walsh (Lib Dem, Littlehampton East) agreed, adding: “I think this committee should lay down what it wants to do – we’re the governance committee.”
Mr Barnard responded with a firm ‘no’, adding: “It’s up to the chairman to decide what to do. It will depend in light of the report that she delivers to me as to what action should be taken.”
Dr Walsh was part of the committee which appointed Mr Elvery.
He told the meeting that many ‘matters’ had since arisen which were not reported or discussed by that committee, adding that it was ‘important from a transparency and openness point of view’ that the council investigated the whole process fully.
Calling for an investigation to be carried out quickly so the matter did not ‘linger on’, he said: “I think that might need either the involvement of our standards committee or, at the very least, an independent person from outside the council.
“It’s not just a question of getting it right, it’s actually a question of being seen to get it right by those outside the council.
“It’s sometimes said that when councils or any public body investigates itself, it’s less than helpful.”