The chief executive of Thanet District Council, Madeline Homer, is to leave the local authority in the aftermath of an Independent Monitoring Officer's (IMO) investigation into divisions at the local authority.
The conclusion of Homer's 14-year-long career at Thanet is the latest development in a major dispute between senior management at the council that began in 2019.
Last month, recommendations to help resolve the long-running dispute made by the local authority's IMO, Quentin Baker, were approved by councillors. These included a review of the constitution and a restructuring of the Corporate Management Team (CMT).
In his Lessons Learnt Paper, Mr Baker found that organisational problems at the local authority had stemmed from a "schism" that had developed between CMT members.
He said the divide was between the Chief Executive (Madeline Homer), Corporate Director of Communities (Gavin Waite), and Director of Governance & Monitoring Officer (Tim Howes) on one side and the Deputy Chief Executive & S.151 Officer (Tim Willis) on the other.
Several factors appeared to have been behind the rift, including the emergence of a "close personal relationship" between Madeline Homer and Gavin Waite.
"[The relationship] was for some time during 2018-19 the source of much gossip and speculation both amongst staff within the authority and more widely on the internet, which is likely to have impacted upon the dynamic of the small CMT," Mr Baker said.
The decision for Homer to leave – announced yesterday (9 June) – was a joint one between her and the council, according to an update published by the local authority.
An interim Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service is expected to be identified and appointed in the next Full Council meeting on 14 July.
In the meantime, the council's Section 151 Officer and Director of Finance, Chris Blundell, is Acting Deputy Chief Executive and is covering the duties of the Head of Paid Service. This is a short-term arrangement to ensure that the council meets its obligations to provide the statutory role of Head of Paid Service during this time, the council said.
In a statement, Madeline Homer said: "After nearly 15 years at Thanet District Council, and 7 years as its Chief Executive, it is time to embrace the natural cycle of change both for the organisation and also importantly for me. I want to pursue new challenges, which is something I am excited about.
"I have enjoyed being Chief Executive and have worked collaboratively and positively with elected Leaders over those 7 years, together achieving positive change in the district. I am particularly proud of Dreamland; the Multi Agency Task Force and Housing Intervention programmes in Margate; Thanet Parkway; and of course more recently the Margate Town Deal and Levelling Up funds for both Ramsgate and Margate.
She added: “I have proactively encouraged and supported Thanet's excellent reputation for partnership working, including establishing the Thanet Leadership Group and East Kent Wellbeing & Health Partnership, which is now being incorporated into the East Kent Health & Care Partnership. More importantly, I have overseen the delivery of vital public services to our communities, including during the challenges presented to us all during the pandemic.
"I could not have done that without the positive support of the staff, they are a credit to the District and the council."