Council chooses slash and burn CEO

New Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery.
New Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery.

An Englishman with a reputation for cost-cutting has been picked as chief executive of Wellington City Council, ousting long-term incumbent Garry Poole.

In a closed-door meeting on Wednesday night, councillors spent three hours debating the appointment of Kevin Lavery, who will receive a salary of $420,000. Councillors interviewed four people for the position on Monday, after deciding in August to advertise the position.

Mr Poole applied for the job but The Dominion Post understand he lost out in a 9-6 vote to Dr Lavery, chief executive of Cornwall Council in southwest England.

In that role, which he has held for four years, Dr Lavery has been responsible for a £1 billion (NZ$1.94b) budget, and has driven a controversial proposal to outsource shared council services, including information technology, call centres and procurement in an effort to cut costs. In 2010, his pay package was worth £245,342 (NZ$476,732), and a newspaper investigation found that Cornwall Council had the highest staff credit card bill in Britain.

Mr Poole announced the decision in a statement to staff yesterday: "As you can appreciate, it is a decision that for me is a significant disappointment. I am enormously proud of Wellington and what we have done to help it build an international reputation as a remarkable place to live, work, visit and play."

The council would be announcing the new appointment in "due course" and he would work with the executive leadership team on the transition. "I have great confidence that we all will ensure this change does nothing to disrupt the quality and consistency of our work."

Mr Poole declined to be interviewed yesterday.

At Monday's interviews, the short-listed candidates gave presentations to the full council before being questioned by councillors. Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Deputy Mayor Ian McKinnon oversaw the process. All staff and the public were ejected from the floor of the town hall when debate began on Wednesday.

Ms Wade-Brown had previously said the council was aiming to reach a decision before Christmas.

She also declined to comment yesterday but in a statement thanked Mr Poole for his work over the past 15 years and said the council would work closely with him to ensure a smooth transition.

She did not name the successful candidate, saying that would be published once negotiations were complete.



The ‘‘Marmite’’ bureaucrat picked as Wellington City Council’s new chief executive comes from a successful background of council mergers but failed attempts at privatising services, a Cornwall councillor says.

Cornwall Council chief executive Kevin Lavery has been picked to head the Wellington council, ousting incumbent Garry Poole.

But Cornwall independent councillor Andrew Wallis said the first his council knew of the move was when they read it in a Dominion Post story on line this week.

He did not believe Mr Lavery had handed his resignation in yet.

‘‘All I know is he hasn’t accepted,’’ Mr Wallis said, adding it seemed unlikely Mr Lavery would apply for a job ‘‘on the other side of the world without seriously wanting it’’.

Assuming he moved to New Zealand, Mr Lavery would leave behind a community of people who either loved or hated him.

‘‘You either love Marmite or hate it. He is seen as Marmite.’’

His greatest achievement since taking the reins in Cornwall in 2009 was a merger of six district councils and one county council into a single authority.

Though there were a lot of redundancies associated with the merger, it was seen largely as a success, Mr Wallis said.

Less successful were his failed attempts to privatise council services, including libraries, payroll, benefits, and procurements.

He had only been successful in partial outsourcing of IT and human resources.

This is Cornwall is today reporting Mr Lavery’s attempts to privatise council services were turned down by councillors.

Cornwall Council Liberal Democrat leader Jeremy Rowe expressed gratitude for Mr Lavery’s work in Cornwall.

‘‘Liberal Democrats will be seeking to ensure that there is a smooth transition to his replacement and we will be expecting Mr Lavery to work out his full notice period with no golden goodbye.

‘‘We will also be looking to continue to cut the overall Cornwall Council wage bill and will be asking for Kevin Lavery's successor to be appointed on a lower salary than is the case at the moment.



For the past four years Dr Lavery has been the chief executive of Cornwall Council, southwest England.

Shortly after taking the position, he told Business Cornwall that his top priority was to sort out the council's organisational structure. He has been the driving force behind cost-cutting measures including the outsourcing of council services. The idea, which would save about £600,000 (NZ$1.2 million) a year, was largely opposed by councillors. Cornwall Council leader Alec Robertson lost his job and deputy leader Jim Currie stepped down over the issue.

Dr Lavery's previous roles include two years as boss of information technology company Serco Solutions, one year at telecommunications company BT as director of local and regional government, and a year as managing director for infrastructure management firm Enterprise PLC.

He holds a PhD in urban and regional studies.



Contact Katie Chapman
Wellington reporter
Twitter: @katiechapman28

The Dominion Post