Boss of council-owned development company Advance Northumberland resigns
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Robin Earl will leave his role as group executive director of Advance Northumberland next March, it has been confirmed.
The search is now on for a new boss to fill the £120,000-a-year job at the regeneration firm, which is owned by Northumberland County Council.
Mr Earl said he wanted to “look towards new challenges and to focus my time and energy on other professional and personal interests”.
Advance Northumberland replaced its troubled predecessor Arch in 2018, but has been the subject of controversy itself during a period of intense political turbulence.
Changes to its governance had to be made last year in the wake of the damning Max Caller report into the running of the council.
Mr Caller warned in 2022 that “arrangements for an effective governance framework by the council are not yet in place” for Advance, four years after the dissolution of Arch.
Auditors had previously criticised the transition from Arch to Advance, while former council chief executive Daljit Lally had claimed to have “significant concerns” about the arms-length company in August 2020.
Following changes to the Advance board last year after the Caller report, council leader Glen Sanderson said that the company had made “great progress” and that the authority wanted to “put a collective arm around the shoulder of Advance”.
Mr Earl, whose resignation was made public at a council meeting last week, said: “I have tendered my resignation from the role of group executive director and will be leaving Advance Northumberland on March 31, 2024 at the end of my notice period.
"My work with Advance Northumberland commenced four years ago, and since then I have been privileged to work alongside a dedicated, talented team delivering real change for the people of Northumberland.
“However, it is now time for me to look towards new challenges and to focus my time and energy on other professional and personal interests. I am very proud that the company and its collaborative working relationship with Northumberland County Council has gone from strength to strength during my tenure.
“An open recruitment exercise is under way to find my replacement. Whoever is appointed will be inheriting a company not only with fantastic people and projects, but also the foundations and opportunity to deliver even more for Northumberland and contribute to a lasting positive change in the county”.
At last Wednesday’s council meeting, Labour opposition leader Scott Dickinson asked why he had found out about Mr Earl’s impending departure “on the grapevine rather than be respectfully communicated with by the council’s wholly-owned company”.
He added that some councillors had become “increasingly frustrated” about the number of council staff moving on from county hall and this disrupting their casework.
Cllr Sanderson replied: “I am not sure about the level of people leaving that you are describing. I think the flow of people coming and going now compared to a couple of years ago is minuscule.”
Council chairman Barry Flux added that the authority does not disseminate details of any resignation “more widely than is strictly necessary” and was now taking steps to ensure an “appropriate response” to Mr Earl’s departure.