Four councils pay out £1.8m in golden handshakes

Four Essex councils paid out more than £1.8 million to departing senior bosses over the last five years.

In addition to Basildon Council’s £1.1 million, Southend Council spent more than £450,000 between 2017/18 and 2020/21 a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed.

This includes £165,700 to a corporate director of corporate services, and £144,379 to a director of integration partnerships in 2020/21. £141,936 also went to a head of service culture, who was made redundant in 2016 but whose departure is logged in the 2017/18 accounts

Rochford Council spent a total £176,000 on the departure of four senior staff, including a managing director.

Thurrock Council initially refused to reveal how much it had spent, but following a complaint about FoI obligations, the council revealed it had spent £177,000 on the departure of 17 senior staff. The biggest pay-out was £55,424 to an ‘assistant director legal’.

Danielle Boxall, spokesman for watchdog the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will be shocked that councils have been dishing out these massive golden goodbyes.

“Most hard-pressed ratepayers could only dream of something like these public sector payouts.

“The government needs to press ahead with its promised cap, so it can throw the book at huge exit payments like these in future.”

A spokesman for Thurrock Council, said: “These payments do not need to be justified – they are normal contractual payments made to staff on leaving employment covering final salary, annual leave and notice.”

A spokesman for Rochford District Council said: “All exit packages are subject to the appropriate legal and governance arrangements, and external audit scrutiny, to ensure they are compliant with the relevant guidance and offer best value for money to the council.”

A Southend Council spokesman said: “Any member of staff who is made either voluntarily or compulsorily redundant is contractually entitled to an exit payment, and these cases are no different.”

They added: “All redundancy payments are made in line with the council’s normal severance policy.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter