Local Democracy Weekly: Keith Ireland – The cost of a transient CEO

When Keith Ireland was announced as Lincolnshire County Council’s choice of new chief executive in May 2018, he came with a reputation.

He had been praised for his work at Wolverhampton City Council and how he transformed services under financial reductions.

In January 2019, he was recognised for this achievement in the Queen’s New Year Honours.

But, rewind six months and a different story was unfolding.


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Ireland came into the county council and wanted to take hold on issues such as devolution and the infamous Serco contract.

He made no bones about tackling the “hysteria” around Serco and even went as far as declaring that his “neck was on the line” if it didn’t work.

Things seemed normal for a time as the chief executive sat alongside council leader, Martin Hill, in executive meetings.

Lincolnshire County Council leader, Martin Hill.

But, in November, the signs of normality were dashed in one fell swoop as a statement was released.

Councillor Hill and Ireland had disagreed on a “number of important issues” and parting ways was “the best way forward”.

Then came the radio silence. No further comment was made on what the nature of Ireland’s departure was.

The search for answers began.

They came this week when the county council released their statement of accounts and, ultimately, the cost of disagreement.

Ireland was paid £292,263, including £8,901 holiday pay, for his six months stint at the authority.

Councillor Hill said the payment was the “best value for money” to part ways and that the council had no plans for replacing Ireland.

It’s a story that, naturally, has not gone down well with the public and it begs the question as to whether it’s a high public price for an appointment turned sour.


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