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Questions after Norfolk’s former children’s services director gets £70,000 ‘compensation for loss of office’

Michael Rosen, former director of childrens services at Norfolk County Council.

Michael Rosen, former director of childrens services at Norfolk County Council.

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Questions have been asked over £70,000 paid to Norfolk County Council’s former director of children’s services as ‘compensation for loss of office’ - when the authority’s managing director had said he had not got a severance payment.

Dr Wendy Thomson, managing director of Norfolk County Council.
 Picture by SIMON FINLAY. Dr Wendy Thomson, managing director of Norfolk County Council. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Michael Rosen departed from Norfolk County Council in November last year, just days after watchdogs were critical of the department’s leadership and the pace of improvement.

At the time, the council’s top officer said Mr Rosen had resigned and there was no severance payment.

But the statement of accounts for the authority revealed he received £70,000 “compensation for loss of office”, along with £93,900 in salary.

The accounts state that, including employer pension contributions, Mr Rosen’s total package for 2016/17 came to £178,500.

But when Mr Rosen left, Dr Wendy Thomson, the council’s managing director, said: “He was not under pressure to leave and he enjoyed the full confidence of myself and others.

“Neither was he given a huge amount of money to leave, he gets no severance as he resigned.

“I think the thing he was feeling he could not do was addressing the consistency of social practice in the child protection service. Someone with a social work qualification was best placed to do that.

“Michael was disappointed with the comment about the disappointing rate of change, because we have to move quickly.”

When asked why the accounts stated he had received £70,000 as compensation for loss of office, the council said only: “The categorisation of payments to senior staff in the statement of accounts are covered by accounting regulations which prescribe that they are presented in this way.”

The council reiterated that Mr Rosen had resigned and had not been dismissed, but would not comment further on why the compensation was paid or why the accounts seemed to be at odds with what Dr Thomson had previously said.

George Nobbs, former Labour leader of Norfolk County Council has written to council leader Cliff Jordan seeking an explanation.

Mr Nobbs said members had been told Mr Rosen was entitled to no payment and would receive none beyond his salary and holiday entitlement, because it was his decision to resign.

He wrote: “Since we were told that Michael Rosen’s decision to leave was entirely unprompted and came as a surprise, why did he receive ‘compensation for loss of office’ equivalent to half a years salary?

“I think that councillors are entitled to know the full facts surrounding Michael’s departure.

“In seeking this information I imply no criticism of Michael Rosen, who I believe has behaved very properly throughout this whole business, but I do feel that councillors have been seriously misled.”

Mr Jordan said he would look into the issue for Mr Nobbs and would respond to him with a full breakdown of the payments.

But he said he believed Mr Rosen had received payment in lieu of notice because he had left with immediate effect.

Mr Rosen’s departure came shortly after Mr Jordan and managing director Dr Thomson met children’s minister Edward Timpson - a meeting where Mr Jordan promised there would be a “step change” in the department.

The children’s services department has twice been rated as inadequate by Ofsted. The department is now headed by interim director Matt Dunkley.

Ofsted returned in March and published a monitoring report which reported “decisive action” and areas of significant improvement, although they said the service most children and young people received was not consistently good enough.

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