West Sussex County Council defends relocation allowance for chief executive Nathan Elvery amid calls for it to be repaid

Nathan Elvery new chief executive at West Sussex County Council SUS-160627-165751001
Nathan Elvery new chief executive at West Sussex County Council SUS-160627-165751001

A relocation allowance on top of West Sussex County Council chief executive Nathan Elvery’s £190,000 salary was fully in line with policy, the authority has made clear this week, despite calls from opposition councillors for the sum to be repaid.

Mr Elvery was granted a reported £47,500 to help relocate after swapping Croydon Council for the West Sussex top job in 2016 even though Land Registry documents confirm Mr Elvery still owns his home in Epsom, Surrey, as well as his new flat in Southgate, Chichester.

County councillors James Walsh and Michael Jones have called for the allowance to be repaid – but a county council spokesman insisted payments made to the chief executive were ‘fully in line with policy’.

Liberal Democract Dr Walsh said the payment was ‘immoral’.

“The £47,500 paid as a ‘relocation allowance’ to Nathan Elvery is morally wrong,” he said.

“He has not relocated to West Sussex, continuing to live at his home in Epsom, and has bought a pied-à-terre in Chichester. He is paid £190,000 per annum, which is a hefty sum from our taxpayers.

“The extra allowance is clearly intended to cover a complete relocation to West Sussex from other parts of the country, and this has not happened.”

The county council’s ‘removal and resettlement’ policy stated the main objective of the allowance was to enable the recipient to ‘permanently relocate’.

The allowance was subject to a Freedom of Information request on the What Do They Know website, with the county council asked for details of payments.

In response, county’s director of law and assurance Tony Kershaw said: “The payments for which claims were made within the total set out in the request included payments for temporary accommodation, for legal and estate agent fees associated with a property purchase and removal costs.”

This newspaper asked county for justification of the allowance, why it represented value for money given significant pressures on the council’s finances and why estate agency fees were paid if a property was not sold.

In response, a spokesman said: “The expenses paid to the chief executive on his appointment were fully in line with the council’s policy on recruitment related expenses.

“As the policy states, it acts as an incentive to recruitment and is intended for those posts where there are recruitment difficulties and where vacancies are advertised nationally.”

After seeking further clarification regarding the ‘estate agency fees’, the spokesman said: “The term ‘estate agent fees’ was used in a response when in fact it referred to letting agent fees to cover initial rental costs.”

The spokesman said the relocation policy enabled the individual to use a defined amount, or percentage of salary, to meet the costs of moving to a base nearer their place of work.

“It also allows for the payment of a lodging allowance whilst more permanent arrangements are made. The payments in this case were all within the terms of the policy and this was not treated differently from any other request,” they said.

“Since the payments made to the chief executive were fully in line with the policy and the contract of employment there is no basis for asking that they be reimbursed.”

Labour county councillor Michael Jones said the allowance was a ‘controversially large amount’.

He argued the funds should be repaid if Mr Elvery’s plans for permanent relocation had changed.

He said: “The council confirm he hasn’t breached the technical wording of the policy, but I do think it is not really in the spirit of it either, and I think most people will agree with me, too.”