City leaders have unveiled their latest executive recruit who will be known as Edinburgh’s “Executive Director – Place”.
The bizarre title echoes roles held by characters in John Morton’s BBC comedy drama W1A, in which actor Hugh Bonneville plays Ian Fletcher as the corporation’s “head of values” and leads a team of “experts” including a leader of “perfect curve”, a “director of better” and a senior executive for “primetime factuality”.
But unlike the hit comedy, the new director – who is set to be former Stockport Council chief Paul Lawrence – will actually be performing a useful function with responsibilities including waste and recycling, planning, transport and housing. And while the title has raised eyebrows, the appointment has been welcomed.
Council chiefs said Mr Lawrence would have responsibility in many of the areas managed by the services for communities department, which was criticised for its size and weak management in the wake of the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal.
But they stressed decision-making would be far less concentrated as part of a council restructure that will devolve as much power as possible to local communities and neighbourhoods.
Councillor Cameron Rose, Conservative leader, has criticised Mr Lawrence’s title as the “latest thing” in a bid to put a “stamp of novelty” on his appointment.
He said: “They would have been better advised to have chosen something more traditional.
“A number of authorities down south have this title and we are jumping on the bandwagon. I don’t particularly like it but I don’t think the name is so significant that I need to try to change it.”
However, Cllr Rose was broadly supportive of Mr Lawrence’s selection as preferred candidate, adding: “He has been chosen because he has a lot of experience and because he’s very able.”
Mr Lawrence will join the council at a key juncture in a reform programme which is likely to see more than 900 posts axed as city bosses bid to save £107 million by 2020.
He began his local government career as arts director for Durham City Council before moving to Northern Arts as assistant chief executive in 1997.
He also spent ten years at Newcastle Council as head of culture and, later, assistant chief executive, overseeing the city’s regeneration and leading on major projects such as the Science City development.
Council leader Andrew Burns, who chaired the recruitment committee, said: “I am certain that we have chosen the right candidate for this new and important position.
“This is a key role for the city that will oversee essential services such as roads and pavements, street cleansing, refuse collection and housing – services that affect all residents in the city.”
Chief executive Andrew Kerr added: “Strong leadership is crucial to achieving a smooth transition while continuing to serve the people who live in, work in and visit Edinburgh. I look forward to working closely with Paul to build on previous successes and to help shape the future of Scotland’s capital.”