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Opposition leader calls for transparency after £186,000 council severance pay figure revealed

PUBLISHED: 15:41 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:13 04 October 2019

East Suffolk Counci's offices. Picture: Thomas Chapman

East Suffolk Counci's offices. Picture: Thomas Chapman

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The leader of East Suffolk Council's Labour Group has called for transparency on settlement pay after figures reveal nearly £200,000 was given to just 11 departing members of staff.

Labour councillor Peter Byatt. Picture: Thomas ChapmanLabour councillor Peter Byatt. Picture: Thomas Chapman

In August it emerged 499 East Suffolk Council staff had resigned or been made redundant in the last five years, a figure the council said was only a fraction over the national average.

Of those 499, 11 staff were given settlement agreements.

While the council has refused to give information into individual payments under GDPR, figures show the council spent a total of £186,710.49 on paying 11 staff as they left the organisation.

READ MORE: Nearly 90 council staff resigned or made redundant in year councils merged

Steve Gallant, leader of East Suffolk Council. Picture: East Suffolk ConservativesSteve Gallant, leader of East Suffolk Council. Picture: East Suffolk Conservatives

Exact figures for each payment cannot be provided, but the sum averages £16,974 given to each member of staff who signed a settlement agreement.

The head of Waveney's Labour group, councillor Peter Byatt, has called for more information to see how this could have been avoided.

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He said: "We still don't have absolute figures about what all of those job losses were for, and the council can't reveal information about individual ones, but my concern is in an organisation of this size, is there any way of avoiding job losses in the first place.

"£200,000 in the grand scheme of the budget isn't massive but still, it makes you ask if it has to be done. Could this have been avoided?"

Council leader Steve Gallant said there is "nothing unusual or out of the ordinary" regarding departures.

He said: "The figures represent a tiny fraction of our two predecessor councils' staffing budget which amounted to around £80 million in total over a five-year period.

"Pay outs of this kind are cost-effective but are also rare.

"As councillor Byatt knows very well, staff turnover in organisations of this size is entirely normal and occurs for a variety of reasons.

"We are here to serve nearly a quarter of a million people across east Suffolk and it is critically important to ensure we have the right people in place to deliver the services our taxpayers demand.

"The reality is that a progressive, business-like organisation does not stand still and the days of people enjoying a job for life no matter how they perform are in the past."

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