More than £200,000 of taxpayers’ cash used to encourage council staff to move to Norfolk and Suffolk

Norfolk County Council headquarters. County Hall Martineau Lane, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

Norfolk County Council headquarters. County Hall Martineau Lane, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

More than £200,000 of taxpayers' money has been used to pay 'golden hellos' to attract staff to work at the region's councils in the past two years.

Council bosses said the relocation expenses payments, which include paying new staff's rent, commuting fees, removal costs, storage costs and estate agents' fees, were necessary to help to plug 'hard to fill' posts.

Of councils in Norfolk and Suffolk, Norfolk County Council paid the highest amount in relocation expenses - a total of £97,355.50.

The council paid £27,574.79 in 2016/17 and £69,780.71 in 2017/18. A spokesman said: 'The purpose of the relocation scheme is to assist with the recruitment to 'hard to fill' posts.

'For example, in areas of skill shortages or where the field of candidates is drawn from the whole country or overseas. This includes within social work, where there is a national shortage.

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'It should not be confused with the excess travel scheme, which applies when an employee's place of employment is changed by the county council, beyond the employee's control.'

The council said chief officers decide on whether the relocation scheme can be used as part of the recruitment package, before the post is advertised.

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But, very exceptionally, a decision to apply the scheme may not have been made prior to advertising, but it becomes clear during the appointment process that the most suitable candidate would not be secured without it.

By way of comparison, Suffolk County Council paid out a total of £47,053.30 over the two years. It paid £13.601.01 in 2016/17 and £3,448.29 in the last financial year.

If people who have been paid relocation expenses leave the councils within a certain time period, they can be asked to back the money.

The only council where that happened was at Suffolk County Council. On one occasion in 2017/18 £3,708.64 was paid and taken back in the same year.

Breckland Council and Broadland District Council were the two authorities in our region which did not pay any relocation expenses over the two years.

The councils would not reveal which individuals had claimed the relocation expenses, citing an exemption under the Freedom Of Information Act triggered because the information released would reveal personal data about a third party.

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