Whittington Hospital chief executive Steve Hitchins: 'I was the best person for the job'
Published: 15 May, 2014
by TOM FOOT
>>NEW JOURNAL COMMENT: 'A bad odour swirls, but Mr Hitchins sees little wrong' (click here)
THE new chairman of the Whittington Hospital has defended earning tens of thousands of pounds as his politician wife’s consultant by claiming: “I was the best person for the job”.
Steve Hitchins told the New Journal he had “not earned a penny” from Baroness Sarah Ludford, a Lib Dem member of the European Parliament, since taking the helm of the Highgate NHS Trust on January 1.
But he accepted he had been one of her paid staff, earning up to €20,000-30,000 each year since 2006, working part-time on “services and projects” from her office in Islington.
He said: “It was for looking after the office premises, leaseholds and securing staff, things like that. I am aware of the skills and knowledge of people in the area she represents and she needed someone she could trust. I was the best person for the job.”
Mr Hitchins said that European Parliament rules regarding politicians employing family members are changing next week because the system has been “abused by some people”.
A former Lib Dem leader of Islington Council, the Whittington chairman has made no secret of his party membership or his marriage to Baroness Ludford.
Her expenses sheet for 2013 names “Steve Hitchins” as one of her 10 staff, stating that he is her “husband” and that he works for her part-time.
But last week the hospital chief executive Mr Hitchins appointed, Simon Pleydell, insisted that all NHS institutions should be “apolitical”.
Mr Hitchins said last night (Wednesday): “I have not been an elected politician for eight years. The chair of the Barnet trust is a Labour life peer. I have got to earn a living somewhere. I get just £20,000 for the Whittington for three days a week.”
Mr Hitchins said all earnings for consultancy work were paid into his company, Steve Hitchins Ltd.
A spokesman for the Trust Development Authority, which appointed Mr Hitchins, said: “Political activity is not a bar to public appointment. Mr Hitchins was required to declare any political activity he had undertaken in the previous five years as part of the application process.”