Kirklees Council has appointed its first deputy chief executive in seven years to strengthen its senior management team.

The council’s current executive director for public health and corporate resources, Rachel Spencer-Henshall, has been promoted to the role.

Ms Spencer-Henshall will stand in for chief executive Steve Mawson but there will be no increase in salary.

The council hasn’t had a deputy chief executive since 2017 when Jacqui Gedman held the role. She wasn’t replaced when she stepped up to become chief executive.

A report to the council’s Personnel Committee said the appointment of Ms Spencer-Henshall would give “absolute clarity” over who was in charge when Mr Mawson was on leave or away on other duties.

The report added: “In a period of significant change, it is increasingly important to have very clear deputising arrangements.”

The council is currently facing a period of uncertainty as council leader Cathy Scott faces a vote of no confidence at a full council meeting on July 17.

Clr Scott could be removed but it may prove more difficult to elect a successor as no party has an overall majority, in which case the chief executive would take the role on a temporary basis.


Rachel Spencer-Henshall (right) with former chief executive Jacqui Gedman and former council leader Shabir Pandor


The report also says having a deputy chief executive allows senior officers to gain experience of the top job and see a pathway to promotion.

Clr Scott, council leader and chair of the Personnel Committee, said: “The cross-party Personnel Committee agreed that the role of deputy chief executive would make the senior management of the council more efficient and accountable at no extra cost to the organisation.

“Many councils operate with the same, or similar, role. A deputy chief executive brings consistency and clarity to leadership arrangements in support of the chief executive.

“It means decision making can automatically be delegated to a named officer in the chief executive’s absence and both staff and councillors have a well-known point of contact in an emergency.

“It also means we have extra capacity to represent the council on regional bodies where a consistent voice for Kirklees is needed to support councillors.

“With her experience and deep knowledge of our organisation, I’m confident that Rachel Spencer-Henshall will do a great job.”


Rachel Spencer-Henshall (left) with members of the surge testing team during the Covid-19 pandemic. Pic by: MIKE CLARK


Ms Spencer-Henshall joined the council in 2013 and became director of public health in 2015. Two years later she took on wider responsibilities as strategic director for public health and corporate services.

This meant that, in addition to public health, she took on responsibility for the council’s finances, HR, IT and other activities that support frontline council services.

Ms Spencer-Henshall led the council’s public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The council’s Pay Policy Statement, also on the agenda at the Personnel Committee, listed salaries for senior managers.

The chief executive earns £166,866 a year while strategic directors have a salary band of £130,000 to £145,999.

The average salary of council staff, not including those who work in schools, is £28,770.


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