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Highland education chief in shock exit – 10 weeks after being appointed to £936-a-day post

By Gregor White

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Paul Senior hit the headlines when it emerged he was being paid the equivalent of £244,296 a year as executive chief officer for education.
Paul Senior hit the headlines when it emerged he was being paid the equivalent of £244,296 a year as executive chief officer for education.

HIGHLAND Council’s controversial chief officer of education is to leave his role in August, the local authority has confirmed.

Paul Senior hit the headlines recently when it was revealed he was being paid the equivalent of £244,296 a year – more than his boss, council chief executive Donna Manson, or even the Prime Minister.

He was appointed as executive chief officer for education just 10 weeks ago.

The council confirmed the move, indicating that he would remain in post until after children return to school on August 12.

A council spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that the chief executive is writing to members this evening to inform them that Paul Senior’s role will come to an end in August.

“The main focus of his work has been planning for the return of education and, following the announcement by the Deputy First Minister, we are pleased that these plans can now be put into action to safely return children and staff to school in August.

“Mr Senior will be seeing those plans are implemented and arrangements will be put in place for an interim executive chief officer to lead education until a permanent appointment can be made.”

Mr Senior took up the role at Highland Council after working in education management for Hackney Council in London. Before that, he worked as director of education and children’s and adult services at English councils and as a school and local authority inspector.

He has also worked for Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace football clubs, as well as Blackburn Rovers, where he was director of football and operations from January to May 2017, resigning after the club was relegated to League One.

There was widespread dismay when details of his extraordinary pay package were revealed earlier this month.

It emerged that Mr Senior was being paid £936 per working day or more than £244,000 a year – more than the Prime Minister.

It also means he could have pocketed somewhere in the region of £45,000 since he was appointed by a reduced panel made up of just Mrs Manson and the education committee chairman, Councillor John Finlayson, during lockdown.

Members of the Gold Group of senior councillors and officers which ran the council during lockdown approved the recruitment process, but not the sums involved.

After the figures emerged, Conservative group leader Andrew Jarvie branded them “unjustifiable” while SNP group co-leader Maxine Smith said she and her party colleagues were “in shock” over the amount involved.

A council spokeswoman said the fee paid had been negotiated with an agency involved in his appointment and it was not possible to make a like-for-like comparison with staff salary costs. She added that the council was not paying National Insurance or pension contributions for Mr Senior, and would not pay him for periods of annual leave or sickness.

Council leader Margaret Davidson said Mr Senior had the skills the council needed as it faced the task of struggling with the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on education.

There was unhappiness among councillors earlier this week when he did not attend a virtual meeting of the Inverness city committee and officers failed to fully explain his absence.

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