WALTHAM FOREST: New town hall boss announced

Martin Esom looks set to become the new chief executive of Waltham Forest Council.

Martin Esom looks set to become the new chief executive of Waltham Forest Council.

First published in Waltham Forest East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Senior reporter

A SENIOR officer has been chosen to be the new chief executive of Waltham Forest Council.

Martin Esom, who is currently the acting chief executive, has been recommended for the role by a panel of councillors and will take up the post pending approval by full council.

Mr Esom, who has a close working relationship with the Labour leadership, is an experienced officer with a long history at the council - but his appointment may prove controversial.

Both his pay and performance in previous posts at the authority have come under criticism, and he was also a senior officer during a time when rules to prevent fraud were regularly ignored at the council, although there is no evidence to suggest he was involved.

Earlier in his council career, when he held the post of executive director of environment and regeneration, he was criticised over the quality of his department's street cleaning service.

His appointment as the temporary head of the council's troubled housing body Ascham Homes in December 2009 also proved controversial.

Unison's Waltham Forest branch criticised the move, claiming it was a conflict of interest for him to hold the post while he was also deputy chief executive of the council.

And in March this year he was among members of staff attacked by the Taxpayers' Alliance over his pay packet.

It was revealed that in the 2008/09 financial year he was the highest-paid council officer at the authority, earning £141,554 in pay and expenses in his role as deputy chief executive.

The Guardian understands that two other candidates were also in the running for the job, although one later pulled out.

Mr Esom is expected to receive around £200,000 per year as chief executive.

He replaces former chief executive Andrew Kilburn, who was given more than £356,000 by the council on his departure earlier this year.

The council said Mr Kilburn left the authority by mutual consent, although the Conservatives claim he was ousted from the role by council leader Chris Robbins.

Confidential documents seen by the Guardian revealed that Cllr Robbins decided that Mr Kilburn should leave following a breakdown in the working relationship between the two.

Speaking of the appointment, Cllr Robbins said: “I'm very pleased to announce that the panel agreed unanimously to appoint our current acting chief executive.”

He added: “This allows us to start to move on [from Mr Kilburn's departure].”

In a statement, Mr Esom said: “I’m looking forward to taking on this role and am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to do so.

“Like every other local authority Waltham Forest is operating in uncertain times, but we have already proven ourselves able to meet difficult challenges head-on in order to improve the lives of our residents.

"This resilience is an attribute I will be looking to draw upon as chief executive and something I know will help see us through the challenging times ahead.”

Cllr Robbins added that the recruitment process was national and "highly competitive".

He said: "Martin has an excellent track record and never been afraid to tackle difficult service areas in order to turn them around to the ultimate benefit of our local community.

“Considering the unprecedented financial times we are facing this is exactly the kind of leadership we need if we are to make every penny count whilst protecting the services that matter most to our residents.”

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Comments (13)

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8:24pm Thu 16 Sep 10

Sam Hain says...

Well, there's a surprise! How long was the shortlist I wonder?
Well, there's a surprise! How long was the shortlist I wonder? Sam Hain
  • Score: 0

8:58pm Thu 16 Sep 10

rubberneck says...

About the distance between his collar and knot maybe? He obviously did not dress for the interview that he had passed anyhow?
About the distance between his collar and knot maybe? He obviously did not dress for the interview that he had passed anyhow? rubberneck
  • Score: 0

9:31pm Thu 16 Sep 10

Redfox says...

I have no complaints about Mr Esom - he certainly got some action for me when needed.
I had complained that the cycling officer/principal transport officer was being more than intransigent in answering ANY of my contacts over many months.
He wrote back, I have told Ms Harkell to respond. She did so within 24 hours.
Mind you there's been SFA done in the last 11 months about the re-opening of the traffic lights for the St Mary Road/Hoe Street/Selborne Road cycle lane !
Martin - she's gone to sleep again !
I have no complaints about Mr Esom - he certainly got some action for me when needed. I had complained that the cycling officer/principal transport officer was being more than intransigent in answering ANY of my contacts over many months. He wrote back, I have told Ms Harkell to respond. She did so within 24 hours. Mind you there's been SFA done in the last 11 months about the re-opening of the traffic lights for the St Mary Road/Hoe Street/Selborne Road cycle lane ! Martin - she's gone to sleep again ! Redfox
  • Score: 0

9:38pm Thu 16 Sep 10

md-j says...

Given that any outside applicant would be aware that the job was in the personal gift of the Council Leader, it's hardly surprising that Mr Esom has been appointed. Since he knows where all the bodies have been buried in this Council over recent years, the job was probably his for the asking: anyone who tries to put him down, he knows he can take down with him.

'Mr Esom, who has a close working relationship with the Labour leadership, is an experienced officer with a long history at the council..'
This is a euphemism for a completely toxic situation: Omerta will rule again in this stagant Borough.
The only defence we have as citizens is the knowledge that any illegality or malpractice over the past few years that may eventually be identified will be difficult for Mr Esom to deny knowledge of.
What we have definitely NOT got here is a new broom.We must all keep asking questions, and taking those questions to outside agencies if we can't get answers.
Given that any outside applicant would be aware that the job was in the personal gift of the Council Leader, it's hardly surprising that Mr Esom has been appointed. Since he knows where all the bodies have been buried in this Council over recent years, the job was probably his for the asking: anyone who tries to put him down, he knows he can take down with him. 'Mr Esom, who has a close working relationship with the Labour leadership, is an experienced officer with a long history at the council..' This is a euphemism for a completely toxic situation: Omerta will rule again in this stagant Borough. The only defence we have as citizens is the knowledge that any illegality or malpractice over the past few years that may eventually be identified will be difficult for Mr Esom to deny knowledge of. What we have definitely NOT got here is a new broom.We must all keep asking questions, and taking those questions to outside agencies if we can't get answers. md-j
  • Score: 0

10:45pm Thu 16 Sep 10

Sam Hain says...

Would Mr Esom's "long history at the council" include any involvement with the recent costly and embarrassing election miscount fiasco by any chance?
Would Mr Esom's "long history at the council" include any involvement with the recent costly and embarrassing election miscount fiasco by any chance? Sam Hain
  • Score: 0

1:31am Fri 17 Sep 10

EducateCommunities says...

In this time of financial crisis Mr Esom does not offer any value for money he has been clearly groomed for this position and his track record is very questionable at best.

The council has not shown any respect for the residents of Waltham Forest with another appointment lined up from privileged insider information, and tied to the inner circle of the council lead by Mr Robbins.

This stinks of hidden unconditional political backing within the council and going by past claims of fraud and mismanagement of public funds.

This just looks like we a going to get another major setback by having a underling promoted to higher pay bracket that will not justify lower paid workers who will be laid off.

Why does the council not employ someone new with a untainted background and experience of getting results as we can not afford another yes man who will be over paid and under performing ?
In this time of financial crisis Mr Esom does not offer any value for money he has been clearly groomed for this position and his track record is very questionable at best. The council has not shown any respect for the residents of Waltham Forest with another appointment lined up from privileged insider information, and tied to the inner circle of the council lead by Mr Robbins. This stinks of hidden unconditional political backing within the council and going by past claims of fraud and mismanagement of public funds. This just looks like we a going to get another major setback by having a underling promoted to higher pay bracket that will not justify lower paid workers who will be laid off. Why does the council not employ someone new with a untainted background and experience of getting results as we can not afford another yes man who will be over paid and under performing ? EducateCommunities
  • Score: 0

7:52am Fri 17 Sep 10

Nicholas Gascoine says...

What a suprise (NOT)
I don't doubt HE will do very well.
I doubt if the rest of us will.
What a suprise (NOT) I don't doubt HE will do very well. I doubt if the rest of us will. Nicholas Gascoine
  • Score: 0

8:56am Fri 17 Sep 10

UKIP-local says...

It is utterly and completely wrong that an officer should be so close to one group or party. The tax payers fund the role which is to serve the whole council and the whole community.

In private business there is great anxiety about the responsibility of senior company officers for ensuring that money laundering and bribery (so-called "financial crime") do not occur and that systems and controls are in place to prevent these.

It looks as if the controls were inadequate at this council, so why would anyone appoint a senior officer to an even more senior role; one would have thought down-grading or sacking might have been the idea. Or does he know too much?
It is utterly and completely wrong that an officer should be so close to one group or party. The tax payers fund the role which is to serve the whole council and the whole community. In private business there is great anxiety about the responsibility of senior company officers for ensuring that money laundering and bribery (so-called "financial crime") do not occur and that systems and controls are in place to prevent these. It looks as if the controls were inadequate at this council, so why would anyone appoint a senior officer to an even more senior role; one would have thought down-grading or sacking might have been the idea. Or does he know too much? UKIP-local
  • Score: 0

9:12am Fri 17 Sep 10

Sam Hain says...

I'm sure he does, UKIP-local, and as we know knowledge is power. However, those of us who also know our Bible can perhaps find comfort in Samuel 1:25!
I'm sure he does, UKIP-local, and as we know knowledge is power. However, those of us who also know our Bible can perhaps find comfort in Samuel 1:25! Sam Hain
  • Score: 0

9:52am Fri 17 Sep 10

myopinioncounts says...

He's probably already worked out how much his 'golden handshake' will be.
He's probably already worked out how much his 'golden handshake' will be. myopinioncounts
  • Score: 0

8:05pm Fri 17 Sep 10

EducateCommunities says...

Judging by the bulk of comments Mr Esom is onto a very good earner I hope we could call in a audit, but CSI style with all these cuts getting sanctioned.

The council do not have any clear idea of how they are going to tackle the cuts, yet they are still paying high ranking staff huge sums for poor service.

How do they justify one fiasco after another if they were paid by performance they would all be sacked by now.
Judging by the bulk of comments Mr Esom is onto a very good earner I hope we could call in a audit, but CSI style with all these cuts getting sanctioned. The council do not have any clear idea of how they are going to tackle the cuts, yet they are still paying high ranking staff huge sums for poor service. How do they justify one fiasco after another if they were paid by performance they would all be sacked by now. EducateCommunities
  • Score: 0

2:11am Sat 18 Sep 10

Dreadster says...

Why is a man in charge of a London borough earning the same as the man who runs the whole country? How on earth did this poor performing administration manage to award themselves telephone number salaries and who on earth voted for them? The current MP Mr Cryer doesn't even have the courtesy to reply to these and similar questions. At least his predecessor replied when written to. What are the people who voted for them getting in return I wonder?
Why is a man in charge of a London borough earning the same as the man who runs the whole country? How on earth did this poor performing administration manage to award themselves telephone number salaries and who on earth voted for them? The current MP Mr Cryer doesn't even have the courtesy to reply to these and similar questions. At least his predecessor replied when written to. What are the people who voted for them getting in return I wonder? Dreadster
  • Score: 0

1:51pm Sun 19 Sep 10

Sam Hain says...

Extremely irritated, Dreadster.
Extremely irritated, Dreadster. Sam Hain
  • Score: 0

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