The West of England Combined Authority (Weca) has poached Bristol City Council’s chief executive and handed him a £19,000 taxpayer-funded pay hike. Stephen Peacock will be the regional body’s new top officer, replacing interim boss Richard Ennis.

But the outgoing city council head honcho’s new salary of £205,000 is considerably less than that of Mr Ennis who was paid £268,410 in 2022/23 – a much higher figure as he was effectively a contractor recruited via an agency, whose undisclosed fees were on top of this. Mr Peacock will receive closer to the minimum end of the pay band that was in Weca’s job advert for the role – £200,000 to £220,000 a year.

It is, however, a lot more than the wage of the last permanent combined authority chief exec, Patricia Greer, who was on £164,682 in 2022/23 despite being on a period of absence for just over four months from November 2022 to March 2023. That absence ultimately lasted until the end of August last year when Weca announced it had agreed a £219,000 exit payment to Dr Greer, a figure that was revealed weeks later to have been less than half of the £453,000 the organisation forked out to part company with its first chief executive.

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That included £97,000 on legal fees, £14,000 towards those of the ex-top officer and nine months’ full salary totalling £123,500 that it was paying her at the same time as it was paying Mr Ennis an interim wage. Last September, Mr Peacock’s contract with Bristol City Council was extended until the end of 2024 so he could oversee the transition from a mayoral model to a new committee system, which begins after May’s local elections following a referendum result to scrap the position of a directly elected mayor.

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It is not known when he will take up his new role at Weca, whose elected head is Labour metro mayor Dan Norris. Weca is comprised of Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset councils to oversee regional policy such as transport and skills. Before Mr Peacock’s extension – which was agreed unanimously by councillors to avoid the upheaval of having to find a new head of paid service at the same time the local authority undergoes such a drastic change in how it’s run – his employment at City Hall was supposed to end on June 30.

Speaking about his new appointment, Mr Peacock said: “It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve the citizens of Bristol during nearly five years with the council, including the past 18 months as chief executive. I wish to thank the Mayor of Bristol for his consistent support during this time and to all at the council for their dedication to their roles.

“Having worked alongside Richard over the past couple of years on delivering our organisations’ shared goals for the region, I also wish to thank him for his efforts and support during his time at the combined authority. I look forward to the opportunity to continue the collaborative efforts across our region to ensure the West of England is a place people are proud to live, work and invest in.

“This is a region of huge potential, as recognised by the substantial investment secured for jobs, skills, transport and homes.” Mr Ennis will remain as interim chief executive, including a “short handover period” once his replacement takes up the role to ensure a smooth transition, before leaving the organisation.

He said: “I would like to express my appreciation to my corporate leadership team and all the staff at the mayoral combined authority for their unwavering commitment, professionalism and passion for serving the people of the West of England. It has been a true privilege to work with Dan Norris, the first-class local leaders and tremendous public sector and private sector partners in the region to make a tangible difference for our residents and businesses and shape a brighter future for our communities.”

Mr Norris said: “Stephen impressed all of those involved in what was a rigorous selection process with his vision and passion for the region, his experience and, crucially, his determination to get things done. This was a unanimous decision of myself and the West of England council leaders.”

Outgoing Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said: “I want to thank Stephen for all that he’s done for Bristol. He’s brought an emotional intelligence, expertise and trustworthiness to a really difficult job.

“He leaves Bristol City Council with a legacy of delivery, including Bristol City Leap, Temple Quarter, addressing the housing crisis and the transport changes our city needs.”

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