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Highland Council hits back at Private Eye story about chief executive


By Ali Morrison

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Donna Manson, Highland Council Chief Executive.
Donna Manson, Highland Council Chief Executive.

Highland Council has reacted angrily to a report in satirical magazine Private Eye which pillories its chief executive Donna Manson for her management of the authority's finances.

Revelations by the Inverness Courier about payments made to senior officials at the council have appeared in the magazine, edited by Ian Hislop, star of the TV panel show "Have I Got News for You."

The magazine has a circulation of more than 250,000.

Leader and Depute Leader of the Council Margaret Davidson and Alasdair Christie said: “ The administration of the council is fully behind our management team led by the chief executive, Donna Manson. She has the full support and confidence of the council.

"Ms Manson has achieved huge successes in bringing financial stability and improvement to the council over the past two years.

"She has turned around an overspend and has brought in significant underspends and has rebuilt our balances in line with audit recommendations. She has also achieved significant improvement in educational attainment and key service areas.”

In its "Rotten Boroughs" column - which examines goings-on in local councils across the UK, the story about Ms Manson is the lead in the latest edition under the headline "Highland Games".

The story begins: "Inflated salaries and eye-watering payoffs are not the preserve of southern English local authorities."Independent dominated Highland council, where some 235,000 people rattle around in 25,000 sq km can give any other authority a run for its (taxpayers') money."

It then goes on to say that Ms Manson's mission when she joined the authority in 2018 was to cut senior salaries to save much-needed cash.

"But her maths seems to have gone awry", the story says.

It then goes on to highlight stories that have appeared in the Courier, including a £475,000 pay-off to former director William Gilifillan and the near £1,000-a-day the council forked out to a London-based consultant to run the education department.

The story states of Paul Senior: "His trouser-filling days were terminated just 10 days after his appointment."

It concludes:"With budget shortfalls made worse by Covid-19 and a black hole of some £30 million, at the end of last month councillors set aside £10.9 million of reserves to plug some of the gap.

"Many councillors feel they have had enough of CEO Manson, but fear the cost of her own departure could break the bank."


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