Spread the word: Here comes 'Marmite'

MICHAEL FORBES AND TOM HUNT
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2012

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Wellington's new city council boss is an amalgamation expert nicknamed Marmite - because people either love him or hate him.

Kevin Lavery has been chief executive of Cornwall Council in the southwestern tip of England for the past four years. He was appointed to steer the transition from a county council overseeing six district councils into a single unitary authority with 123 councillors, which came into being in 2009.

He is in charge of about 22,500 staff and a budget of roughly £1 billion, and has a reputation for outsourcing jobs and privatising council services.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean confirmed Dr Lavery had been offered the position of chief executive after a meeting on Wednesday night when long-term incumbent Garry Poole was ousted by a full council vote of 9 to 6.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown would not be commenting on his appointment until a contract was signed, Mr MacLean said.

Cornwall councillors were generally surprised to hear of Dr Lavery's likely move when The Dominion Post called yesterday.

Liberal Democrat councillor Jeremy Rowe described him as a very capable leader.

"Cuts are his thing - outsourcing and privatisation - that's his background. He will deliver those things and move on," Mr Rowe said.

"The issue is always whether or not you enjoy his agenda to start with . . . if there's political difference on that, then expect interesting times ahead."

Dr Lavery's legacy in Cornwall would be taking control of a "disastrous" amalgamated council, with weak political leadership, and making it run smoothly, Mr Rowe said.

He believed the prospect of leading a similar project in Wellington would have been attractive to Dr Lavery. But the recent rejection by Cornish councillors of his plans for part-privatisation of some council services, such as libraries, payroll and procurements, may also have prompted him to move on.

"I'll be interested to read his memoirs in the years to come because I'd imagine he'll look back at Cornwall as a rather frustrating time professionally," Mr Rowe said.

Independent councillor Andrew Wallis said Dr Lavery was not to everyone's taste, much like Marmite. "You either love Marmite or hate it. He is seen as Marmite."

The council merger had been seen as a success but it also led to a lot of redundancies, he said.

Conservative councillor Scott Mann said Dr Lavery had done a good job of handling a 30 per cent reduction in central government funding.

"He's very affable, easy to talk to.

"He gets on well with people and he's able to break things down to a level that people can understand."

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- The Dominion Post

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