Monday, 30 November 2020

Henley to have full-time town manager

HENLEY is set to have a full-time town manager.

HENLEY is set to have a full-time town manager.

The town council has set up a working group to recruit someone to the new £32,090-a-year role.

At the moment, Henley has a part-time town centre manager, a position created in 2010 and currently held on an interim basis by 28-year-old Rachel Rae, from Wallingford. She took over in June following the departure of Peter McConnell.

One of Mr McConnell’s recommendations in his final report was to make the role full-time.

The council’s town and community committee agreed last week to budget for the new role from April 1 after Miss Rae’s contract comes to an end.

Councillors hope that South Oxfordshire District Council will contribute £10,000 a year to the new role as it currently co-funds the part-time post and that the Henley Business Partnership might also contribute. The working group will draw up the job description for the new role, which will be advertised.

It comprises Mayor Lorraine Hillier, Deputy Mayor Julian Brookes and fellow councillors Sam Evans, Sara Abey and Sarah Miller.

The Mayor said: “I think that we have enough expertise on the council to handle the recruitment.”

The group also wants to work with the Henley Town Team, which has previously been branded “a secret club” by councillors.

The Town Team was formed in 2014 and tasked with the aim of making Henley the “best town in the world to live, run a business, work, play and visit” by 2030.

It was chaired by Mr McConnell but Ms Rae didn’t take over as she had not been in post long enough.

The team receives £20,000 from the town council and £4,000 from the district council to contribute to the economic development plan.

In October, members of the committee complained about the lack of council representation on the team and accused it of “bad management”.

Last week, the committee heard that Councillors Brookes, Abey, Evans and David Nimmo Smith had attended the latest meeting of the team.

Cllr Brookes said the meeting was chaired by business adviser Simon Dunster as a facilitator who was “trying his best”.

“There was no agenda,” he said. “They were talking about traffic problems and parking. It needs a chairman — the town manager or someone else. They should be bringing us initiatives which can enhance the town.”

Cllr Hillier said the lack of an agenda was “not good enough”. She added: “The advice at full council was that there needs to be an agenda so it is there for everybody to see that there is nothing secret about it — but it’s not there.”

Councillor Kellie Hinton said she didn’t want to appear to be against the Town Team but added: “What Cllr Brookes has said does nothing to allay my fears. What is being spent on what? I would like a lot more transparency.”

Councillor Will Hamilton said: “We discussed this last time. How can we put the Town Team in a better direction of travel? They should be doing economic development and driving footfall in the town, not discussing roads and car parks.”

Mr McConnell, a 52-year-old marketing expert, of King’s Road, Henley, worked 18½ hours a week and was paid £16,000 a year before he moved away to take up a new job.

He took over the position from Oliver O’Dell in April 2012 and had his contract renewed for two years in April last year.

Branding and event management expert Mr O’Dell was the first town centre manager but resigned after 18 months after criticism by councillors.

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