Executive at South Somerset may or may not be employed

Regular readers of The Leveller® may remember that Alex Parmley resigned as CEO of SSDC in May. At the time the council led a recruitment process to replace him. There was apparently only one candidate. Clare Pestel. Ms Pestel already worked for the authority having been hired by Alex Parmley. She was also working at her family vineyard Melbury Vale. It is a lovely vineyard and located just outside of Shaftesbury and it has been beautifully landscaped.

The website describes her role at the vineyard. “Clare and Glynn now run the overall business, that has evolved in recent years, with Clare as winemaker and distiller.” Apparently these duties still leave her with enough time to work full time for SSDC.

As the only candidate, unsurprisingly she was selected as Mr Parmley’s successor. Then suddenly within days of the announcement being made it was all off. SSDC simply said that Clare Pestel would not be taking up the role for “personal reasons”. Since when the council has remained tight lipped.

The Leveller® has asked the “open and transparent” authority a series of questions. All to date they have refused to answer.

So we asked again. We asked: Has Ms Pestel left her existing role at SSDC, aside from not taking up the CEO appointment? Not one would have thought the most controversial question. A simple yes or know would suffice. So we were a little surprised to learn that “South Somerset District Council has nothing to add to its previous correspondence on this subject.” For clarity their previous correspondence simply noted they would not be commenting.

Our open and transparent authority are not even prepared to confirm if their executives still work for them or not.


  • The role will only exist for a few months.
    Prior to the shadow Unitary Authority

  • The CEO role yes. But Ms Pestel was employed by SSDC prior to applying for the CEO role. So our question was about whether or not she was still employed by the authority at all – or at least in her former role.

  • FOI request needed – no data protection issues – her seniority means it’s a public interest matter so go to the ICO if there’s a refusal

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