Former Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Praised After Leaving Top Job with Monmouthshire County Council to Work for NHS
A FORMER Chepstow schoolboy who served as a lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy has been praised after leaving his top job with Monmouthshire County Council.
Matt Phillips was appointed as the authority’s top legal officer five years ago, but has now left the council to work for the NHS.
July’s full council meeting was the last he attended as the chief officer for law and governance and monitoring officer to advise the council on procedures and offer advice on any legal issues and its constitution.
At the meeting councillors, and chief executive Paul Matthews, paid tribute to Mr Phillips, who saw active service before joining the council in 2018.
Mr Phillips, who lives in Abergavenny, had grown up in St Arvans and attended Pembroke Road Primary in Chepstow and the town’s comprehensive school.
Conservative opposition leader, Cllr Richard John, said he recalled the meeting where Mr Phillips had been appointed and said he’d shown councillors were right to have picked a candidate without local government experience while Mr Matthews said he doubted many other councils would have been willing to do so.
Mitchell Troy and Trellech member Cllr John said: “I think you were the only candidate who didn’t have a local government career. You have demonstrated you don’t need that local government background. We saw that, that stardust.”
He also praised Mr Phillips’ “calm, competent, strategic leadership” during flash flooding in February 2020.
Leader Mary Ann Brocklesby, who was first elected in May last year when Labour took over from the previous Conservative administration, said she had “real sadness” in saying goodbye to Mr Phillips “despite having only known Matt for one year and two months.”
The Llanelly Hill councillor said: “He’s been a really firm friend, supporter and guide during that time of helping us navigate as a new administration and a very new council, with 60 per cent (of members) being new councillors.”
She added: “I will miss you and I can say on behalf of all my colleagues across the council, we will miss you and wish you every good luck in your new post.”
Chief executive Mr Matthews said: “The interview when Matt came here was spectacular, it reminded many in the chamber that the military creates leaders and then gives leaders jobs, not the other way round. What we’ve benefited from is a man who genuinely gets what it means to be a leader.”
The top officer said Mr Phillips had “expanded” his head of law role and added: “He’s a real man of Monmouthshire. It’s a joy when you see one of your own excel in a number of walks of life, you can sit back and say, ‘yeah, you can be world class from here’.
“I’ve never experienced a more accomplished head of law in a public service setting, and I’ve known a lot.”
Mr Phillips thanked councillors and praised the experience of the council’s strategic leadership team of senior officers and Mr Matthews “for taking a punt on an ex-submariner who thought he’d have a crack at his local council.”
Mr Phillips will be succeeded as the county council’s chief officer for law and governance by James Williams, who will now advise the council across a range of legal issues and well as ensuring the council and councillors follow its rules and procedures in his role as the monitoring officer.
The council has confirmed Mr Williams will be paid within the chief officer band A range with a salary of between £90,683 to £94,538 a year. He was appointed during a closed session at the July full council meeting.
Mr Williams is currently working his notice period as principal litigation solicitor and deputy monitoring officer with Cardiff council.
He is also the monitoring officer for the South East Wales Corporate Joint Committee and legal advisor to the Cardiff City Deal joint cabinet which Monmouthshire council is a part of.
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