Golden goodbyes: Axed director pockets £252,000 from Norfolk County Council as part of £2.8m exit packages for redundant staff

Anne Gibson. Picture: Denise Bradley

Anne Gibson. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant

Exit packages worth nearly £2.8m were paid to 191 Norfolk County Council workers who were made redundant last year, figures have revealed.

Michael Rosen. Picture: Archant Library

Michael Rosen. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: Submitted

The council's annual statement of accounts for the 2016/17 financial year shows that there were 43 compulsory redundancies and 148 agreed departures. The total value of the payments was £2.761m.

The figure includes a payment of £252,500 to the executive director of resources Anne Gibson. Her position had been recommended to be axed under a review by managing director Dr Wendy Thomson. Ms Gibson received an annual salary of £139,500 the previous year.

The executive director of children's services Michael Rosen was another to leave. He received a payment of £70,000 while Chief Fire Officer Roy Harold was given £20,000.

MORE: Former Norfolk County Council chief set for £250,000 redundancy package

Roy Harold. Picture: Archant Library

Roy Harold. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2016

Mr Rosen resigned from his post with immediate effect in November, just days after a report by watchdogs Ofsted was critical of the leadership within his department, while Mr Harold retired with immediate effect the same month against a backdrop of budget cuts.

After Mr Rosen's departure, the council secured the services of Andrew Bunyan as an interim director of children's services and he remained in post until the appointment of Matt Dunkley in the position from February 6.

The statement of accounts shows figures of £37,700 paid for Mr Bunyan and £46,300 for Mr Dunkley which 'represent the fees paid to secure their services and are not salary'.

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'By mutual agreement Roy Harold stepped away from operational service and David Ashworth took over as Chief Fire Officer from November 1, 2016,' information in the document stated. 'Roy Harold served his notice entitlement and took his holiday entitlement and left our employ on March 31 2017.' Redundancies are often seen as an effective way of trimming the wage bill, but they come at an initial cost. The latest redundancies are less than the 257 who left the authority over the previous 12 months at a cost of £2.955m.

Unison blamed the redundancies on funding cuts to local councils, a situation which they claim was leaving staff vulnerable. The high number of agreed departures showed that staff were battling with higher workloads, the union said. Of the 191 people who left, the majority (155) received less than £20,000 in their exit package.

MORE: New boss of Norfolk children's services Matt Dunkley fights back

What the council says...

The 191 exit packages for the 2016/17 financial year was lower than the previous year when 257 exit packages were paid. In the 2015/16 year there were 93 compulsory redundancies compared to 43 for the 2016/17 period. The number of agreed departures also declined from 164 to 148. The total cost of the exit packages only dropped slightly though, from £2.955m to £2.761m. A total of 155 people received exit packages of £20,000 or less compared to the previous year's 212. Commenting on the matter, a Norfolk County Council spokesman said: 'The council has had to save £334m over the last seven years, which has led to a number of staffing reviews across all departments. The £2.761m covers 190 staff across the council at all grades.' On the payments regarding Andrew Bunyan and Matt Dunkley, the council said: 'Andrew Bunyan and Matt Dunkley were paid for their work as interim directors of children's services.'

What the union says...

Jonathan Dunning, the Norfolk County branch secretary for Unison, blamed the redundancies as a result of local council funding cuts. 'County councils are having to set budgets and staffing is one of the areas they can cut back on,' he said. 'Hopefully we'll see a change in that from the last election.' He said the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London had been a wake up call for everyone. 'Local authorities are having to cut corners to balance the books and services have deteriorated over the last six years. We need to turn that around and have seen from Grenfell just how important it is that local councils are allowed to do the work they are supposed to without being hampered by budget cuts.'

He said the union was concerned about the pressures placed on staff left behind. 'We've seen a lot of voluntary exits and that's because staff members were already under pressure from previous cuts. Many staff feel taking a voluntary exit package is a better option.'

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