New council chief admits that tough choices lay ahead

‘WATCH this space.’

That’s the message from the man chosen to be Chorley Council’s new chief executive.

In an exclusive interview, Gary Hall, whose appointment is set to be rubber-stamped by full council on July 19, has spoken for the first time about his plans to make the £4m savings needed at Town Hall.

He has already conceded that staffing levels could be further streamlined and that town centre council buildings could be sold off in the process - although he insists no final decisions have been made.

The father-of-three joined the authority in 2001 as Deputy Director of Finance. He soon rose up the career ladder, becoming the Director of Finance in 2005 and then Director of Transformation.

He will take over as chief executive on August 5 when Donna Hall leaves to take over the No 2 job at Wigan Council.

The move to appoint internally will save Chorley Council a reported £100,000 and will see Mr Hall juggle his current role with his new one.

The title will also command a salary of £105,000 a year plus car and pensions contributions - less than Ms Hall’s overall overall package of around £157,000.

Speaking about his likely promotion, he told the Guardian: “I will be extremely proud if I am made the new chief executive of Chorley Council.

“I am committed to continuing to provide taxpayers with value for money and want to maintain an excellent level of service.

“I have worked extremely hard and my family are delighted that I have been put forward for the top job.”

Mr Hall admits that undoubtedly his biggest challenge will be making the £4m savings needed over the next four years as part of Government funding cuts.

He said: “I know it is going to be difficult, but Chorley Council is good at saving money and has already saved £100,000 if this appointment is agreed.

“We are going to have to take a good look at how we do things at the council over the next three to four years though and have to drive down costs.

“We already have a financial plan in place that is looking at everything from the contracts we have to buildings and assets.

“Our main aim is to make sure that staffing levels and frontline services are protected. That has always been our philosophy and that won’t change.

“We will also continue to tackle bureaucracy and management costs and will look at the possibility of shared services and new technology to help save us money.”

Mr Hall said that the council is not yet in talks about sharing services with neighbouring authorities, including South Ribble, but did say it would be one way to help plug the budget cuts.

And, despite admitting that job cuts couldn’t be ruled out, he spoke out to reassure his team.

He added: “The impact of the cuts on the public sector is beginning to affect staff morale, but the staff at Chorley Council are committed and despite the uncertainty that exists at the moment my job will be to maintain staff morale and maintain momentum.”

Mr Hall also revealed that the work on the budget for next year, when £1.4m will have to be shaved from the council’s annual budget of £14.8m, will get fully underway in the autumn.

He added: “Work has already started on a financial plan that will look at all areas of the council.

“Our main focus will be at looking at our assets, including our town centre buildings and seeing how the space could be used differently, or if it is better to rent them out or sell them.”

Mr Hall also insisted that the authority hadn’t given up on the £2m locked in the Icelandic banking crisis.

He added: “This is my chance to take over one of the best councils in the country and at the end of the day the people who will be making the changes are the staff who are incredibly hardworking and want to do their best for the customer.

“My challenge is to maintain the services we have and move forward whilst making the necessary savings.”

Mr Hall was put forward by a cross-party panel of nine elected members who undertook interviews on Friday.

He beat fellow council director Jamie Carson to the top job.