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‘Rudderless’ Gloucester council in ‘crisis of leadership’ after fourth director quits

Gloucestershire County Council has been described as being “rudderless” and in a “crisis of leadership” after the resignation of its fourth director in a year.

The strategic director for finance Jo Walker has announced that she is leaving the council to become the chief executive at North Somerset Council after 30 years working at Gloucestershire CC.

The Lib Dem opposition leader Paul Hodgkinson paid tribute to Walker as an “excellent officer and massive loss” but questioned why so many senior employees have been leaving the council.

Walker, who will take up her new role in the new year, said: “I have enjoyed my years with the county council immensely and am extremely grateful to the council for the wide range of opportunities I have been able to be involved with, all of which, along with a strong personal drive to succeed, has taken me on a varied and exciting career.”

But Cllr Hodgkinson commented: “Amongst this personal good news, however, is the crisis of leadership currently facing Gloucestershire County Council.

“This latest departure means that four directors have left the council in the last year alone, with Jo taking more than 30 years of experience with her.”

So far this year, the head of children’s services, director of communities and infrastructure, and the chief fire officer have all left Gloucestershire CC.

The chief fire officer, Stewart Edgar, resigned in July after an internal probe over the sale of an ex-fire service vehicle which found Edgar had displayed “poor judgement” and “damaged the council’s confidence” in him.

The head of children’s services left the council after “letting down vulnerable children” and the director of the environment left for South Gloucestershire Council in the summer.

Hitting back at claims of a crisis, Mark Hawthorne, leader of the county council, responded by saying: “Paul Hodgkinson is a bit confused again.

“Jo Walker’s promotion to be the chief executive of a neighbouring council is a massive vote of confidence in Gloucestershire County Council. We’re seen as one of the highest performing councils in the South West - which is why our senior officers are in such demand.”

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