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Ex-KCC boss Katherine Kerswell sparks outrage over public bodies

KCC managing director Katherine Kerswell
KCC managing director Katherine Kerswell

by political editor Paul Francis

The former managing director of Kent County Council who received a £420,000 pay-off has sparked outrage after saying the public sector must do more to be cost-effective.

Katherine Kerswell left her role as managing director of KCC in controversial circumstances after less than two years in the job and did so with a £420,000 payout.

She has since taken on a new job as the director general for civil service reform at the Cabinet Office on a six-figure salary.

Writing in The Guardian, Mrs Kerswell said one of the key challenges facing leaders in the public sector was how best to be cost-effective.

"The drive to reduce costs, improve productivity and heighten overall efficiency is the key to public management for the foreseeable future, and it cannot be avoided.

"Cost-effectiveness is the hallmark concept for public leaders in these austere times," she writes.

Public sector leaders needed to find an answer to the question, she adds: "What is the cheapest and most effective way of solving this problem? This begins with planning effective outcomes for citizens, before addressing the cost to the taxpayer of designing solutions to these outcomes."

Her comments were described as breath-taking by the Taxpayers' Alliance.

Matthew Sinclair said:

"The irony of Katherine Kerswell lecturing us on efficiency and good use of taxpayers' money is breath-taking.

"Her pay-off at Kent County Council remains one of most prominent examples of an overly generous and unjustified golden goodbye for a local authority boss.

"Now that she's in charge of civil service reform her priority should be to end the culture of excess in the civil service, rather than writing vacuous Guardian articles."

In the article, Mrs Kerswell also contends that "decision-making that is obscure, unseen or hidden fails the test of a modern democracy.

"As citizens, we now want 24/7 accountability, and we expect the full disclosure and transparency of those public decisions taken in our name."

KCC has never fully explained the full background to Mrs Kerswell's departure or accounted for why she was given a £420,000 payout when she left the authority last December.

There were rumours that she had fallen out with the Conservative administration but the council said doing away with the managing director was a way of saving money.

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