Council goes south for £90,000-a-year director

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SCOTTISH Borders Council has announced the appointment of the £90,000-a-year official who will lead a new department at Newtown, writes Andrew Keddie.

Rob Dickson will take up the post of director of environment and infrastructure and be in charge of nearly 700 full-time staff who were formerly employed in the technical services and planning and economic development departments.

The service will have a combined annual revenue budget of more than £32million

Mr Dickson will be joining the council from Kingston-upon-Thames where he has been that local authority’s director of environment and sustainability.

The merger of planning and technical services is a key plank of SBC’s cost-cutting business transformation programme.

Partly driven by the economic downturn which has seen the number of planning applications, particularly for new houses, plummet, the amalgamation is expected to save the council £1million in the next financial year.

The revamp was revealed in TheSouthern in April last year following the shock resignation, with just two weeks’ notice, of then director of technical services Callum Hay, who commented: “My department is in the midst of many exciting developments which has made this a difficult decision.”

There was speculation, however, that the impending upheaval contributed to his departure after four years in the job.

The council then decided not to appoint a permanent successor, preferring instead to give the role of acting director to the now-retired former finance boss Sandy Brown.

However, Mr Dickson’s appointment casts doubts over the future of current director of planning Ian Lindley who, TheSouthern understands, was advised not to apply for the new job. Mr Lindley declined to comment this week, although an SBC source told us: “Regarding Ian Lindley, his post will no longer exist at a date to be agreed and he will either be re-deployed or leave SBC.”

Mr Dickson will, however, become the new boss of Brian Frater, head of planning and building standards, and Ray Beard, head of neighbourhood services.

A council press release, proclaiming Mr Dickson’s appointment, stated: “Bringing extensive experience, Rob will make a positive contribution to the newly-created and challenging environment and infrastructure service, having previously worked with the Energy Trust as acting director of transport energy and head of partnership co-ordination. He was also a national director in Scotland for Tidy Britain/Keep Scotland Beautiful.”

Councillor Alec Nicol, SBC’s depute leader with responsibility for personnel, added: “I am delighted to welcome Rob Dickson ... his skills and knowledge will make an invaluable contribution to the challenges that face the new department and he will make an excellent addition to the team.”