Published: 13 May, 2010
by RICHARD OSLEY
A TOWN HALL director who quit his £158,000-a-year job after just seven months has told colleagues that he feared possible cuts to his pension deal.
Jim Wintour will end a long career in public services in less than a fortnight, a move that has stunned the council’s top brass who appointed him as the head of the crucial housing and community safety department.
The 62-year-old only took up the job in September amid high hopes for what he could bring to the top table.
Mr Wintour said: “I will leave Camden with real sadness. It has been a privilege to work at Camden with residents, staff and councillors of exceptional ability and commitment.”
He is well liked by the department’s workforce and council tenants had warmed to his style of listening to their concerns about the often-maligned housing wing of the Town Hall.
“He said all the right things and seemed to be doing the right things too,” said one well-placed insider. “Most importantly, he empathised with the problems people face in housing.”
But Mr Wintour has told people close to him that he felt he had to take swift action because he was worried about plans discussed at Whitehall to introduce new taxes to existing pension entitlements for high-earning local authority staff.
A possible Labour government planned to make changes by 2012. The Conservatives, who formed a new government with the Liberal Democrats on Tuesday night, were expected – in local government circles – to speed up the changes as part of plans to shake up council finances.
After the New Journal broke the news of Mr Wintour’s sudden departure on Thursday, he sent text messages to those he had worked closely with explaining the reasons behind his decision. A leaving party will be held at a pub in King’s Cross.
“What Jim Wintour is telling people is that he was worried about changes to his pension deal, so he decided to retire,” the insider added.
Mr Wintour, who is brother of Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue and Patrick Wintour, political journalist at the Guardian, had a long history of public service and had worked at Shelter, the housing charity.
A council spokesman said: “We would like to thank him for all of the good work he has undertaken over his time with Camden.”