Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Tuesday, 13 May 2008 18:00 UK

Chief executive stands down early

Douglas Paterson
Mr Paterson said he wished to take early retirement

Aberdeen City Council's chief executive has said he will take early retirement as a probe began into council finances.

Douglas Paterson said: "This seems to me to be the right thing to do."

He made the announcement as Scotland's spending watchdog, the Accounts Commission, started an inquiry into the local authority's finances.

A two-day hearing is gathering information from the council and others to gain "a greater understanding" of its financial difficulties.

The council is currently pursuing a programme of 27m of cutbacks, which has led to weeks of public protests.

Demonstrators outside the Town House held placards protesting against cuts in services on Tuesday.

Mr Paterson, who is still expected to remain in the post for several months, said: "After 12 years at the helm of Scotland's 'third city' we are at a moment in time which just seems right for me to hand over the reins and allow someone to bring a fresh impetus to one of the best jobs in Scotland and drive the council forward.

"I had planned to retire in just over a year's time.

Douglas Paterson says he sets high standards for himself

"However, the fact that we are due to review progress later this year and we will also have the findings of the Accounts Commission hearing it would be best for the council and the new chief executive for him or her to be part of that process now."

He explained: "I feel therefore that we are at a moment in time where my standing aside slightly earlier than I had always planned allows the new incumbent a clear, uninterrupted run at the job and allows him or her, with the support of the new management team, the chance to inject a fresh impetus and build on what has been achieved to date.

"I wish to emphasise that my decision to request early retirement is solely in order to benefit the council and the people of Aberdeen.

"As I say I have enjoyed my time as chief executive as in any job it has had its moments but the highs far outweigh the lows."

At least someone appears to be taking responsibility for the failures of Aberdeen City Council
Anne Begg
Aberdeen South MP

Council leader Kate Dean said: "As leader of the administration I will be recommending to the council that we approve our chief executive's request for early retirement although I do this with considerable regret.

"Having spoken to Douglas personally this morning I fully understand the reasons behind his thinking.

"It is a mark of the man's integrity that he puts the City of Aberdeen and the council ahead of himself by retiring slightly earlier than he had planned."

Aberdeen South Labour MP Anne Begg said: "At least someone appears to be taking responsibility for the failures of Aberdeen City Council.

"However, it is councillors themselves, not the officials, who bear ultimate responsibility. Therefore, it should be the councillors who are resigning."

Aberdeen North SNP MSP Brian Adam said: "This decision will allow someone new to take the council forward and to build strong foundations for Aberdeen City Council."

'Weak leader'

The Accounts Commission hearing follows the Controller of Audit's report which highlighted concerns about best value and community planning.

Mr Paterson was one of four senior council figures questioned by members of the Accounts Commission at the Town House on Tuesday.

Controller of Audit, Caroline Gardner, described the council's financial position as "precarious".

Mr Paterson said the council had suffered through an inability to push through changes since the 1990s, but he denied suggestions of a weak leadership.

He told the meeting: "I would find it surprising if you were to find anybody in the council or the significant part of Aberdeen who would put myself in the category of being a weak leader."

The commission's findings could include recommendations to Aberdeen City Council and Scottish ministers.

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