Sunderland City Council chief executive quits £175,000-a-year top job

Dave Smith, Sunderland City Council Chief Executive.
Dave Smith, Sunderland City Council Chief Executive.
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The top man at Sunderland City Council has quit after a tough seven years at the helm.

Dave Smith, the council’s chief executive, has announced he is stepping down from his £175,000-a-year post. No reason has been given for his decision.

Sunderland City Council chief executive Dave Smith.

Sunderland City Council chief executive Dave Smith.

Dr Smith was appointed to the top role in 2008 in the wake of the credit crunch, and has held the reins as the council coped with millions of pounds in funding cuts.

His resignation comes after a particularly tough time at the council, just weeks after a damning Ofsted report found serious failings over the council’s child protection, adoption, and children-in-care services.

Council leader Paul Watson, however, paid tribute to Dr Smith’s “impressive” achievements, including seeing a number of major projects off the ground.

Councillor Watson said: “He had a meeting with the executive team this morning, I understand, at which he announced to them he had decided to leave.

“He has been chief executive for seven years and been with the council for 10 years, and I think people only have to look at the achievements of the city, the commencement of work on the new Wear bridge, the new Keel Square. Those achievements are pretty impressive.

“I would like to thank him for the effort he has put in to the city over the years, and wish him well for the future.”

Dr Smith’s resignation comes shortly after the retirement of his deputy, Janet Johnson, leaving the council with no one in position to take over the helm.

Coun Watson said the chief executive was likely to stay in post for the next week or so, and the council would now look for a potential interim “head of paid service” from within the existing management structure.

But the council leader would not confirm if Dr Smith would be replaced by another chief executive, or if another management option may be considered.

“I think we need to take stock of the situation,” he said. “Clearly these are difficult economic times, with reductions in local government funding.”

The Pallion ward councillor said he was unsure as to why Dr Smith had decided to quit, but said people often did not understand the strain such posts put on those who fill them.

Dr Smith, originally from Salford in Greater Manchester, was appointed to the council as deputy chief executive in 2005.

He took over as chief executive in December 2008 after the departure of the previous incumbent, Ged Fitzgerald.

Sunderland Conservatives leader Peter Wood echoed Coun Watson’s tribute to the departing boss, who he said was “well respected within the council and within the city”.

He said: “I’ve always had a lot of respect for him and, in so much as the leader of the opposition and the chief executive work together, we have done so well.

“I wish him all the very best for the future and it will be interesting to see who succeeds him in due course.”