Town clerk’s name change to ‘CEO’ sparks debate at Ottery

Ottery Town Council from left to right, Cllr Peter Faithfull, town clerk Christine McIntyre, Roger G

Ottery Town Council from left to right, Cllr Peter Faithfull, town clerk Christine McIntyre, Roger Giles, Stewart Lucas, Geoff Pratt, Richard Copus, Richard Grainger, Vicky Johns and Dean Stewart. Picture: Clarissa Place - Credit: Archant

Traditional titles for council officers have been scrapped in a ‘forward-thinking’ move to modernise a town council.

A 15-minute debate broke out at Ottery Town Council as members clashed over a move to scrap the 'town clerk' title for council officers in favour of 'chief executive officer' (CEO).

The proposals were backed by the council's human resources committee last month, but met with disagreement from some councillors about changing a traditional title.

Members in support of the proposal argued the move would modernise the council and the position of the clerk.

The title of chief executive officer was passed by five votes to four.

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Councillor Peter Faithfull said if the town clerk title was good enough for the City of London Council it was good enough for Ottery.

Cllr Glyn Dobson said larger towns in the East Devon area had a clerk and could not see how the change would modernise the council.

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He said: "I think the town clerk is a very important position and I think the title is apt."

Newly-titled CEO Christine McIntyre said the change of name would attract a different calibre of candidate should she leave the post.

She said: "If you advertise it as CEO you have a wider pool of applicants, you have a good calibre of applicants coming forward.

"I accept what has been said that there are town clerks for much larger towns but equally there are smaller towns that have got it.

"Let Ottery be the first council in Devon possibly, certainly in the district, to be forward-thinking and go-ahead, not for me, but for future applicants for this post."

Cllr Stuart Lucas said the length of debate was out of proportion to the seriousness of the issue.

Mayor Roger Giles said the council had always been progressive and should be, adding: "We want to be ahead of the field not dragging along behind. I think this is absolutely right.

"There was no one that voted against this at the HR (human resources) committee so I didn't think it was contentious."

Members also supported changing the name of assistant town clerks to executive officers by six votes to two. There was one abstention.

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