ONE of the three top officers suspended by Cheshire East Council in 2017 has landed a new job – earning £750 of taxpayers’ money a day.

Peter Bates resigned as CEC’s chief operating officer in April having been suspended by the authority for 16 months.

He has now taken on a lucrative new role at Southend Council, in Essex, as interim head of corporate finance – earning £750 per day worked.

Mr Bates and Southend Council have both defended the appointment.

“I have cooperated fully with all the necessary processes and proceedings from an employment and contractual perspective,” Mr Bates told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

“I also gave a voluntary interview to the police in December 2017 and I have not been contacted by them since.

“I have never been charged, and I have not been made aware of any ongoing investigations regarding this.

“I have done nothing wrong and I have always co-operated fully with everything that has been asked of me since 2015.

“After four years, I just want to resume my career and do all I can to be successful for Southend Council and its residents.”

Mr Bates was one of three top officers being investigated by CEC’s investigation and disciplinary committee – along with ex-chief executive Mike Suarez, now an associate director at consultancy firm PWC, and Bill Norman, the council’s former head of legal services.

CEC stressed that the decision to suspend all three officers separately in 2017 was a ‘neutral act’, and the council investigation into the trio ended as each officer resigned.

Mr Bates took the new job, advertised at £750 per day, starting on September 23.

A spokesman for Southend Council said: “Peter Bates has been appointed as our new interim head of corporate finance.

“This is a temporary six-month contract following a robust application process which included a public job advertisement and interview.

“We look forward to him working with us whilst we seek a permanent replacement for this role.

“Peter Bates has over 30 years’ public sector experience and was previously employed by CEC as their chief operating officer.

“Peter was suspended as a neutral act by CEC in December 2017 and cooperated fully with all the necessary processes and proceedings. No independent investigation was ever commenced or even an indicative timeline for a resolution established by them.

“Given these circumstances Peter decided to leave CEC on April 8, 2019.”

Cheshire Police is continuing its ongoing investigation into CEC regarding seven matters that were passed onto police by the council – including the awarding of contracts, land transactions in Crewe and Middlewich, and grant funding to improve car parking at a Wistaston primary school.

The force has not named anyone involved and no arrests have been made.

A separate investigation relating to the awarding of contracts to Core Fit – a company run by Amanda Morris, the physiotherapist of ex-council leader Michael Jones – was passed over to the Crown Prosecution Service last year.