Just two of the people operating in senior consultancy positions within Derry City Council’s input into the UK City of Culture are receiving over £8,000 per week in payments between them, the Sentinel can reveal.
Documents obtained by this paper revealed recently that John Farquhar Smith, the Executive Events Producer for 2013 is being paid £1,000 per day (£5,000 per week).
Now new documents show that the man originally employed as Interim Strategy Director by Council, and who has now replaced Dermot McLaughlin as UK City of Culture Project Director, Peter Appleton, is being employed at a daily rate of £592 plus apartment costs of £650 a month.
This means Mr Appleton is receiving around £3,125 per week. Therefore, combined figures for both men - if both contracts fulfilled their full potential- would amount to a total of £442,500 per annum pro rata.
Also, whilst Dermot McLaughlin’s wages, including a 19,600 euro increase on his own salary of 104, 000 euro, to take up his short-lived stint in Londonderry on secondment from the beleagured Temple Bar Cultural Trust in Dublin, was paid by Northern Ireland’s Strategic Investmest Board, the arrangement to pay Mr Appleton is markedly different.
Whilst Dermot McLaughlin was to be paid a total of around 123,000 euro for a 12 month involvement with the City of Culture, it has emerged that Peter Appleton, according to the Council document will receive a limit of £93,430 for just the remaining five months of 2013.
SIB have agreed to pick up Mr Appleton’s monthly cost to the tune of £8,750 per month to the end of the year, yet his monthly bill is £12,490 - a difference of £3,740 per month. So, whilst SIB have agreed to pay a figure of £61,250, the Council document says that Council had made provision for £24,980 totalling £86,230, and that approval was being sought to fork out an additional £7,200 to take the accumulative payment to Mr Appleton up to that limit of £93,430.
The bills for both Mr Farquhar Smith and Mr Appleton are in stark contrast to the latest figures from November, 2012 concentrating on the average earnings of people across Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency figures show that: “In April, 2012 the median gross weekly wage for full-time employees in NI (public and private) was £459.50. The estimated median gross weekly earnings for all (i.e. both full and part-time) employees in NI at April 2012 was £360.20.”
In effect, this means that the sums being paid to both City of Culture consultants are 17.7 times the average gross weekly earnings for full-time workers in Northern Ireland and 22.6 times higher than the average gross weekly earnings of both full and part-time workers here.
And, whilst appreciative of the fact that UK City of Culture is a one-off specialist project the financial packages involved for both men represent 84% of the salaries budget of £525,000 for Council’s Building Control Department for this financial year; or 70% of the Council’s budget of £628,800 for Community Development Grants, or 33% of the £1,332,600 budget for parks and playgrounds.
The new Council document obtained by this newspaper shows the recruitment process to replace Dermot McLaughlin began quickly after his departure. After Mr McLaughlin’s resignation, discussions took place with the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL), Culture Company, SIB and Sharon O’Connor (Senior Responsible Officer (SRO), Chief Executive and Town Clerk of Derry City Council) on how best to secure a replacement and the document says “the purpose of the report is to seek the recommendation to appoint Mr Peter Appleton into the position of Project Director for the remainder of 2013.”
The specification for the post was drawn up by SIB and agreed by Council, DCAL and the Culture Company. The report states that Mr Appleton’s bid was the cheapest available of the six CVs considered from a total of eight applications. All stakeholders agreed that the position of Project Director was a “critical position to fill.”
The report continues “It is vital that the appointed person is brought up to speed with the project as a matter of priority and given that Peter has been working within Council on the Management Team will be aware of some of the work that is required of the post. The SRO has already asked Mr Appleton to assist in the Interim pending the outcome of the process.”
The Council document records that Council had made provision for £24,980 but needed to approve the extra £7,200 required. There is no detail with regards to this provision.
Yet, whilst all parties agreed that the post of Project Director “was a critical one to fill”, concerns were expressed by political representatives of Derry City Council. The document obtained by the Sentinel states: “A Member of the unionist group expressed some concern that SIB was not covering the entire cost as had been agreed previously. The Member also referred to the local media and that some clarification be sought in respect of these costs as it could be viewed that Council was having to accomodate them.
“The Head of Human Resources advised that the required sum was £7,200 and SIB had confirmed that they would cover the remainder of the salary had Mr McLaughlin remained in post to December 31, 2013. She indicated that the sum Council would be required to pay was the difference and no more than that. Reference was made to the fact that the Town Clerk and Chief Executive as the SRO along with SIB and DCAL were keen to progress this issue given the work that needed to be completed. She stressed that assurance could not be given in respect of publicity but stressed that the key stakeholders (DCAL/SIB/Culture Company/Council) had been engaged and consulted with in terms of agreeing the specification for the role.
“A Member of the SDLP grouping acknowledged that there had been some issues with the Culture Company and that Council had raised a significant amount of additional funds.
“The Member understood the requirement to approve the £7,200 and it was probably value for money but indicated that consideration be given to the budget and the need to avoid financial exposure in progressing.
“He stressed that every effort be made to ensure that there was a degree of project management in place and that someone acted on behalf of Council.
“The Head of Human Resources advised that Council’s only requirement was to fund £7,200 towards the salary. She went onto explain that if another person had been taken on the cost to Council would have been significantly higher.”
This is not the first occasion that SIB has been involved in bringing in personnel, or to provide money for that personnel.
As previously revealed by the Sentinel, SIB’s move to draft in Dermot McLaughlin was the second such move made in a bid to ensure the 2013 plans were delivered. Documents previously obtained by the Sentinel show that SIB also had to intervene when it became apparent that Ilex may fail to deliver on two projects it had responsibility for. A business case prepared in a bid to bring Mr McLaughlin showed that Noel Lavery had been designated at the SRO for the Programme for Government (PfG) and established an Oversight Group that met for the first time in April 2013.
It mentioned the anticipated ‘risks’ of the potential failure of Ilex to deliver on these two projects. A report into the situation stated: “This is the second occasion on which SIB has been called upon to provide direct assistance to the City of Culture 2013.
“At the first City of Culture PfG Oversight Group meeting in April 19, 2012 the Ilex URC Supplier Report suggested very significantly heightened risk of non-delivery of the two City of Culture projects for which Ilex URC has responsibility.”
This risk led to SIB appointing a Project Director for those infrastructure projects.
The report also highlighted that a Project Director (Mr McLaughlin) be initially seconded to SIB and made available to Derry City Council and that project management expertise be sought, “initially for a brief diagnostic period, but possibly thereafter for the duration of the City of Culture project until 31st December 2013”.
This report also conatined a section called ‘Procurement Options’ which said: “The precise nature of the requirement for this support has been difficult to nail down, and has emerged gradually from a series of meetings and discussions that have revealed a complicated and frankly rather surprising set of circumstances.”
It also stated that Derry City Council, DCAL and OFMDFM were managing increased risk of the project failing and needed to take a series of actions that “were now critically late.”
That analysis was made prior to Dermot McLaughlin’s appointment last October.