‘Hypocrite’ Tory politicians under fire for £136,000 payoff comments
10:33 02 November 2012
Archant © 2011
“HYPOCRITE” Tory politicians offered a top council boss a six-figure payoff then criticised Labour for doing the same, it has been claimed.
Richard Packham, managing director of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, could receive a £136,000 severance package if he decides to walk away from the authority - which must find £10m of savings in the next three years.
Council leader Trevor Wainwright said the move would pay for itself within a year by merging the posts of managing director and deputy managing director. And the severance deal - linked to pay - was offered to all staff, not just Mr Packham.
But Tory politicians piled in to blast the possible payoff, claiming 61-year-old Mr Packham is on the cusp of retirement and could retire at no extra cost to the taxpayer.
Allegations were levelled in a story printed in the Mercury’s sister paper the Eastern Daily Press last Saturday.
The council has no compulsory retirement age, so Mr Packham was not being forced out on the grounds of age. And a document seen by the Mercury confirms Mr Packham was offered the same payoff under the previous Tory administration.
The letter from the council’s human resources department to Mr Packham is dated April 27, 2012 - before May’s elections - and offered him a deal equating to a £136,000 payoff.
Labour leader Mr Wainwright said: “There’s evidence the previous Conservative administration were going to pay out exactly the same.
“It would have been the same under them, and the hypocrisy of the statements is staggering. This is a personal attack on Richard.”
The payoff is based on salary, with one week’s pay for each year of local authority service for each year worked - up to a maximum of 30 years.
This is then multiplied by 2.2, and Mr Wainwright stressed the offer is to all staff - including the 55 who have already volunteered for severance.
Both Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis and borough Conservative group leader Ron Hanton were quoted in the EDP story.
Mr Lewis defended his comments, stating it was a different situation when the Tories had offered Mr Packham a £136,000 payoff as they had proposed shared management with Breckland and South Holland - a plan thrown out by Labour when they took control in May this year.
Mr Lewis told the House of Commons the merger would have saved a “huge amount of money”.
But he said he did not have figures, and referred the Mercury to South Holland District Council leader Gary Porter for details. The Mercury called Mr Porter, who said he also did not have figures available.
Mr Wainwright claimed the merger would have saved around £160,000 per year, but the authority must find £3.2m of savings for each of the next three years.
The shortfall is caused by the end of the coalition’s Transition Fund - part of local government finance reforms being overseen by Mr Lewis, who is also a communities minister.
Mr Hanton said an offer was made to Mr Packham under Tory rule, but it was a “different kettle of fish” then. He said if shared management went ahead the £136,000 payoff costs would have been split between three authorities whereas now they would fall squarely on Yarmouth.
He claimed former Tory leader Steve Ames, voted out in May’s elections, was behind the offer to Mr Packham.
Mr Ames confirmed the payoff offer, but said the £136,000 would have “bought” a completely different management team through shared services.
“We would have been spending to invest in a much more diverse, experienced management team,” he said.
The council will decide who its new managing director will be at a meeting on January 10, 2013.
The candidate will start in the role on April 1, 2013.