June 14, 2024

Kent County Council £155,000 finance and procurement director Zena Cooke leaves authority

One of the highest ranking officers at Kent County Council (KCC) has left the authority six months after taking a sudden and unexpected leave of absence.

The departure of Zena Cooke, who earned £155,000 a year as the corporate director of finance and procurement, was announced yesterday.

Zena Cooke has left Kent County Council

Staffers in the KCC finance department received an email to say Ms Cooke would not be returning to her role.

It is not known if she has received a severance package over and beyond her contractual arrangements.

It was announced internally in January that Ms Cooke was still working for KCC but had taken a leave of absence.


Ms Cooke’s job, which she has held for more than five years, is significant because she also acts as the Section 151 officer at KCC.

By law, the holder can issue a Section 114 notice, declaring the council effectively bankrupt if it cannot meet its statutory duties with the funding provided by central government.

Cllr Mark Hood

KCC Green Party member Cllr Mark Hood said: “There is no indication why she has left the authority and no explanation so there needs to be some questions asked about the wider circumstances.”

A senior Tory backbencher said: “No one knows anything about this. The top brass have been incredibly tight on this. There’s no gossip in the corridors. No one knows.”

Ms Cooke’s position was taken on an interim footing by John Betts.

She has worked in local government for more than three decades, including as Director of Resources at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, where she was the Section 151 officer.

Before that, she was a senior official at Maidstone Borough Council, according to her LinkedIn account.


A Kent County Council spokesman said: “During her time at KCC, Zena was a key member of the Council’s Corporate Management Team and has been instrumental in helping to deliver the changes and improvements Kent has made to address the challenges it faces, both during and after Covid.

“KCC would like to take the opportunity to thank Zena for her contribution, hard work and commitment and to wish her all the very best in her next role.”

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