A SENIOR Whitehall mandarin who worked directly with George Osborne has taken on a top role on the city council.
Laurence Rockey, one of the driving forces behind the UK Government’s City Deals and “Northern Powerhouse” plans, will become the council’s new “head of strategy and insight”.
The £94,000-a-year role oversees the local authority’s strategy, general policy direction and engagement with staff and residents.
Mr Rockey previously led the Cabinet Office team tasked with implementing the first wave of City Deals from 2012 onwards, as well as securing devolution deals for the north of England – the so-called Northern Powerhouse scheme.
He currently holds a senior role in the department for communities and local government.
Elsewhere, five other top council jobs have also been filled following an intensive recruitment drive.
Experienced spin doctor Simon Higgins will be Edinburgh’s new head of communications – netting a salary of £81,694 a year.
Currently Suffolk County Council’s PR boss, Mr Higgins’ team were accused of “banning” a journalist at the Ipswich Evening Star in 2011 – an incident which garnered national press coverage.
The paper’s local government correspondent, Paul Geater, insisted he was being stonewalled following a negative story – but the press office denied the claims.
Meanwhile, Bruce Strang will become Edinburgh’s head of IT, Nick Smith will be the new head of legal and risk, and Peter Watton has been appointed head of property and facilities management. All will rake in an annual salary of £101,243.
The council’s head of customer services – also worth £101,243 a year – has been appointed, but will not be announced until contracts are finalised next week.
Council leader Andrew Burns said there had been “healthy” competition for the jobs, which are some of the most senior in the council.
He said: “There has been a high calibre of external private and public sector applicants. This will be a significant set of appointments.”
He stressed the roles would be funded within the council’s existing budget.
The moves come amid a period of ongoing upheaval at the council, which is seeking to make savings of at least £148 million over the next four years.
Around 2000 staff are expected to leave as part of cost-cutting efforts, while a number of senior roles have also been reshuffled.
All six of the new appointments were finalised on November 7 and will take up position in the coming months.