Eric Pickles

Councils told to vote on ‘golden goodbye’ payments

Thursday, February 21, 2013
6.30 AM

Local authorities have been told that ‘golden goodbye’ pay-offs given to senior officials should be approved with a full council vote.

The measure was set out in guidance published yesterday by local government secretary Eric Pickles, which also tasked councils to have a full vote on hiring officers set to earn above £100,000.

Meanwhile Mr Pickles wrote to all councils telling them that if they did not follow the guidance, he would act to “require” them to do so.

He said: “For too long, local government has made severance pay arrangements away from the eyes of those who get left with the bill; the taxpayer.

“Town hall chief executives are well paid, so if they are not up to the job councils need to part ways with them fairly.

“Quietly agreeing to thousands in under-the-counter parachute pay-offs for departing bureaucrats is not the way to achieve this.”

Mr Pickles said he would also make changes to dismissal and disciplinary proceedings so that authorities no longer had to appoint an independent investigator to review misconduct allegations; something he said had seen pay-offs jump.

He added: “Councils have a responsibility to the public and transparency is at the heart of that. By shining a light on excessive public pay and introducing new democratic checks and balances to senior salaries we are helping councils improve accountability in local government.”

Leader of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Council Nick Daubney said: “Generally speaking I would agree with the idea.

“I don’t like to see these big pay-offs either and I think colleagues and the public want to be, and should be, aware of what’s happening to public money.”

There was controversy at cash-strapped Great Yarmouth Borough Council last year when it emerged the authority’s managing director Richard Packham was offered a six-figure severance payment.

Leader of the council Trevor Wainwright said: “I would have no problem with what the secretary of state is suggesting; when we carried out our restructuring most of it went to the full council.

“Anything that makes councils more transparent can only be a good thing and if a decision like that is taken by the full council that’s good.

“I guess with the banks like RBS in public ownership we might also perhaps have ministers taking decisions on whether bankers bonuses and pay-outs should be approved.”