Cheshire East Council appoints new chief executive

Lorraine O'Donnell 2

Cheshire East Council has formally appointed Lorraine O'Donnell as chief executive on a salary of £151,000.

Lorraine O'Donnell has in excess of 25 years' experience working in local authorities. Her most recent position was director of transformation and partnerships at Durham County Council. Lorraine was part of the corporate management team at Durham that led the council through Local Government Reorganisation and on to become council of the year in 2014.

Councillor Sam Corcoran, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: "I would like to welcome Lorraine to Cheshire East Council and look forward to welcoming her to our beautiful borough.

"Lorraine brings valuable experience, skills and new perspectives that will help us to transform the council and continue to deliver for our residents.

"We have an ambitious programme ahead to improve the environment, economy, health outcomes and opportunities for everyone in Cheshire East and I am sure that Lorraine will help us in delivering that."

Councillor Craig Browne, deputy leader of the council, said: "Cheshire East, as a borough and as a council, has enormous potential and I look forward to working with Lorraine to achieve that potential. Lorraine will play a vital role in leading the council's staff and in building on our relationships with key partners in business, health and other public services.

"We have a high-performing economy and want to ensure we have a high-performing council to match."

Lorraine said: "I am delighted to be joining Cheshire East Council as chief executive. This is a really exciting time to be joining the council and I am looking forward to working with elected members, staff and partners to serve residents and communities."

Lorraine O'Donnell will start work at the council on 30th March.

The council has appointed Frank Jordan, its executive director for place and deputy chief executive, as acting chief executive to cover the period following Kath O'Dwyer's departure from the council, from 9th March until 29th March.

Kath O'Dwyer was appointed acting chief executive in 2017 following the suspension of Mike Suarez after concerns were raised his conduct. She is relocating to take over as chief executive of St Helens Council.

Cheshire East Council


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Nick Jones
Monday 24th February 2020 at 4:14 pm
Ridiculous salary i.r.o £170k + benefits etc ... ... paid more than the Prime Minister ... Nonsense... absolute nonsense
Pete Taylor
Monday 24th February 2020 at 7:05 pm
Actually, looking back to what the first Chief Exec was paid, this looks like a bargain, particularly as she was off sick most of the time and a sub had to be funded!
Jon Williams
Monday 24th February 2020 at 7:06 pm
Insane !
John Gibbons
Tuesday 25th February 2020 at 7:42 am
I had a quick look at the CEC Budget Consultation. Out of interest, what would a Chief Exec of another similar organisation earn? CEC has 375,000 customers, delivers 500 services, and spends £750m per year. Genuine question.
David Pearce
Tuesday 25th February 2020 at 9:19 am
Also had a quick look at the 2019 public spending budget = £847.7Bn serving 66.7M customers with ultimate responsibility covering 500+ + UK wide protect & survival services with a Chief Exec. = P.M. on £150K. .... also genuine question?
Jon Armstrong
Tuesday 25th February 2020 at 10:54 am
David - I think that's more of an argument that the PM is underpaid.
Kathryn Blackburn
Tuesday 25th February 2020 at 12:27 pm
No Mr Armstrong it isn't. Where does it end ? We quite clearly, cannot as a borough, afford these forever spiralling upward employee costs.
Mark Goldsmith
Tuesday 25th February 2020 at 1:11 pm
The salary of Cheshire Easts leader was reduced from £170,000 to £155,000 last year by the new administration. However, paying less would mean a lower calibre individual and would be a false economy. The role is in charge of 3,000 staff and governs a spend of £750m, so it is a serious job that requires a high performing individual. That sort of responsibility in the private sector would command a much bigger salary, as does many similar roles in the public sector. For example, the head of the Information Commissions Office based in Wilmslow has 500 staff and a budget of £25m a year but pays £250,000 for the role.

Yes the Prime Minister has a headline salary of £149,440 a year, but this is kept artificially low for political reasons. While voters focus on this headline figure, our leaders of all political persuasions quietly pocket far more money in other ways. The tax free perks of being Prime Minister includes a free flat in Westminster, a free country house, free foreign travel, 24 hour chauffeured limousine, free meals and free tickets to the best sporting events too. This all adds up to an estimated £2m a year in tax free perks while they are in office (source Huffington Post).

However, it doesn't stop there. Ex-Prime Minsters get £74,720 a year pension immediately they leave office and can also claim £148,500 a year in 'Public Duties Cost Allowance’ for the rest of their life too. Consequently, the claim that Cheshire East's leader gets paid more than the PM is simply not true.

Ultimately, our council leader can very quickly earn their corn and very quickly negate any savings from a lower salary. Therefore, they do get a big salary and it is expensive, but not as expensive as paying a lower salary could cost us all.

Cllr Mark Goldsmith
Residents of Wilmslow
Cheshire East & Wilmslow Town Council
John Gibbons
Tuesday 25th February 2020 at 1:11 pm
David. The PM position is unique to say the least, far removed from anything normal. Does he go shopping, pay utility bill, drive a car, pay for his holidays? He has/had big newspaper contracts, writes books etc. When he leaves he’ll go onto other lucrative well-paid posts just like all former PMs.
A better comparison for CEC Chief Exec roll is United Utilities Chief Exec. Paid £12M over the last 5 years? Somehow people think public sector pay is fine to criticise but the private sector can get away with it?
Jon Armstrong
Tuesday 25th February 2020 at 2:58 pm
It doesn't sound unduly high to me given what is involved, but if the naysayers think £150k is way too much for someone of the required skill level and experience, what do they consider reasonable?
Alan Brough
Tuesday 25th February 2020 at 6:47 pm
Let’s see what sort of job the lady does and then we can run our cost / benefit analysis.

It’s likely that people’s opinion of high salaried Council Execs will have been tainted by well documented past poor performance. It’s fair to say that the lady doesn’t have a hard act to follow.
Kathryn Blackburn
Wednesday 26th February 2020 at 11:44 am
Spot on the money Alan
Julian Barlow
Wednesday 26th February 2020 at 12:25 pm
Mark Goldsmith-"....paying less would mean a lower calibre individual and would be a false economy."

You can't possibly claim that by paying over £150,000 a year CEC have attracted high calibre leaders. The facts say otherwise.
Barry Buxton
Wednesday 26th February 2020 at 4:29 pm
Somewhat disappointing that her first public statement to us stakeholders was simply, and no more than, the trite "delighted to be joining" and it's a "really exciting time to be joining" and "looking forward to working with serve ...". Obviously put together by a press officer with no effort on her part.
For £151,000 pa I would expect something more inspiring and meaningful, not to mention that it would be nice to get an indication as to when we can expect to get some of her vision and strategic intent.
Lynne Prescott
Monday 16th March 2020 at 8:38 pm
Perhaps we should wait until she starts before judging her? If she can bring some rigour and integrity to the role and steer Cheshire East away from the expensive mistakes and Past scandals we’ve seen from previous CEOs, then she’s worth it for me!
Pete Taylor
Monday 16th March 2020 at 10:02 pm
@Lynne Prescott; absolutely correct. However, this lady is paid £686 per working day and, as far as I can tell, has not made a single comment to the Press (or the electorate) since the few words quoted above, so far. 16 x 686 = £10976.
Let's hope that she is not off sick.