Cardiff council leader Heather Joyce is to have an £80,000-a-year adviser to help shape policy and lead the authority’s public relations strategy.
Cardiff council took out an advertisement in The Sunday Times at weekend – believed to have cost about £6,000 – for the newly created position of “head of cabinet office”.
Opposition councillors yesterday said it was “obscene” to spend £80,000 on an adviser when the Labour-run council last month agreed £22m in budget cuts, including the loss of more than 300 jobs.
As an adviser to Coun Joyce, they will shape policy “that will secure the best possible outcomes for Cardiff” and lead the council’s communications and media team.
Councillor Judith Woodman, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “This is obscene. To spend £80,000 for someone to advise Heather Joyce beggars belief.
“Just think how many services this money would have protected and jobs saved. It could have stopped the distress many have suffered as a result of Labour’s savage budget cuts.”
But local government consultant Jeff Jones, a former Labour leader of Bridgend council, said council leaders were not provided with the support to deliver their vision, adding that a good adviser would be “worth their weight in gold”.
“The future is for politicians to take more of a lead and for chief executives to become more of a manager. If you want that to happen then politicians need to have good advice – and that has to be political advice as well,” he said.
“At too many local authorities there is nobody actually questioning what the officers are saying. The difference in Cardiff is that you have some politicians with a vision.
“Cardiff is fortunate in having one of the leading politicians in local government – and that guy is Russell Goodway (cabinet member for finance).
Whatever you think of him, he has got a view of the world and the ability to put that into practice.”
Mr Jones described Coun Joyce as a “good appointment”, saying she was someone who “understands what ordinary Cardiff people want because she is in an ordinary Cardiff person”.
The appointment is part of a management restructure that will see the number of top-tier directors increase from 17 to 23. The shake-up adds £1.1m to the wage bill, but Labour insists it will be “cost neutral” by cutting spending on management consultants.
Labour group secretary Keith Jones said: “It is vital that Cardiff citizens know that their elected representatives have the appropriate support as they make key decisions on public services. Cardiff council is an organisation with a £1bn turnover and 18,000 employees delivering over 700 individual services.
“The head of cabinet office is part of a new management structure that marks an end of the culture of consultancy that existed within the last administration.”