The highest-paid official at Bristol City Council, on £263,000 a year, has been replaced by a permanent successor — but is staying on for an unspecified period.
Colin Molton, who has been executive director of growth and regeneration on an interim basis since 2017, will be working alongside his replacement Stephen Peacock when he takes up his £165,000-a-year post in November.
The council says the “sensible period of handover” between the two top officers will “ensure a smooth transition to maintain momentum with major projects”.
Since his appointment two years ago, Molton, who is not an employee and is paid via an agency above the going rate because his salary does not include benefits such as a pension or holiday, has been central to several high-profile council initiatives.
He was in charge of coordinating the Temple Island redevelopment, including plans for a city centre arena which were scrapped in favour of an out-of-town concert venue at Brabazon Hangar in Filton.
Molton also oversaw proposals for a clean air zone, which missed multiple government deadlines but will go before cabinet in November, and the Cumberland Basin revamp, aka Western Harbour, whose fate has yet to be decided.
Peacock was appointed on September 26 at a behind-closed-doors session of the cross-party human resources committee at the top of the pay bracket for executive directors, making his salary £14,000 more than that of the Prime Minister, who receives £151,000.
Molton’s pay was contentious because it broke the local authority’s 10:1 pay ratio, which is supposed to ensure employees on the highest salaries are paid no more than 10 times that of the lowest.
Interim appointments are exempt from this policy on the understanding they are short-term.
The level of his salary also debunked claims the council was paying out only as much as it would for a full-time equivalent when employer contributions were taken into account.
Molton’s £262,853 pay package for 2018/19 does not reflect this because a top-earning director on £165,000, the council’s upper salary cap, rises to about £230,000 when pay and contributions are included, almost £33,000 short of what he received.
Speaking of his permanent replacement, a council spokesperson said: “The new appointment carries a salary of £165,000.
“This is within the approved range for executive directors at Bristol City Council and reflects the scale of responsibilities.
“There will be a sensible period of handover between Colin and Stephen to ensure a smooth transition and to maintain momentum with major projects.
“We are still working through the detailed arrangements.”
Mayor Marvin Rees said: “This is a crucial and demanding role for a major city like Bristol and we need an exceptional leader to continue the excellent work so far.
“We’re pleased to welcome Stephen to the council. His experience of more than 20 years in senior strategic roles, across the public and private sectors, will be very valuable to Bristol at a time of considerable change and opportunity.”
He added: “Colin has made a tremendous contribution over the last two years.
“His extensive knowledge and experience has helped us progress a range of major projects and initiatives, strengthening relationships with government and other partners, opening up new opportunities to us.”
Peacock said: “I am excited to be returning to a city as vibrant and diverse as Bristol.
“We know, however, that Bristol faces many inequalities and its success is not shared by everyone.
“I am motivated by making a real difference to people’s lives and I am looking forward to working with a great team of talented colleagues to help progress the great work already underway to make this a reality.”
The council says Peacock has a “huge amount of experience of economic development, major regeneration projects, technology and the energy sector”.
He previously worked for several years as executive director of the South West Regional Development Agency.
His remit includes planning, highways and transport, housing and landlord services, property, parks, libraries, culture and heritage, City Leap and climate emergency.
Adam Postans is a local democracy reporter for Bristol