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Huge pay-offs for departing council bosses revealed - including £388,000 exit package

PUBLISHED: 06:11 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:37 25 September 2020

North Norfolk District Council paid £388,000 in an exit package after a management restructure. Nick Baker (l) left after his joint role with Steve Blatch (r) was scrapped. Picture: Archant

North Norfolk District Council paid £388,000 in an exit package after a management restructure. Nick Baker (l) left after his joint role with Steve Blatch (r) was scrapped. Picture: Archant

Archant

A council boss was paid almost £400,000 to leave his job, as the cost of exit packages for senior staff in Norfolk spiralled to £1.8 million.

The biggest single payout was at North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) with one manager getting £388,919 to depart in 2019/20.

That is more money than the council spent on buying properties to house the homeless that same year. It spent £300,000 buying two properties for the homeless in 2019/20. It has since spent another £117,000 so far this financial year.

The council refused to say who the money was paid to, but it underwent a management restructure which saw its two joint heads of service, Nick Baker and Steve Blatch, cut in March to just Mr Blatch, who became chief executive.

The opposition Conservative leader, Christopher Cushing, said the money was paid to Mr Baker and described the payout as “extraordinary”.

Steve Blatch, the new chief executive of North Norfolk District Council. Photo: NNDCSteve Blatch, the new chief executive of North Norfolk District Council. Photo: NNDC

The council’s leadership restructure was debated by councillors on Wednesday night.

After that meeting, Mr Cushing said: “Last year the Lib Dems promised the decision to restructure NNDC’s senior leadership would result in a more efficient council: instead it will cost us all more.”

Exit costs over £100,000 are meant to be voted on at a meeting of full council, guidance issued by the then local government secretary Eric Pickles in 2013 stated.

At the time Mr Pickles said: “Many believe that pay-offs to senior local government staff are excessive and too frequent.”

Nick Baker left NNDC in March. Photo: ArchantNick Baker left NNDC in March. Photo: Archant

But NNDC said that a vote was not a matter for full council and the payment was made “in accordance with our governance procedures and was what that person was contractually entitled to, paid in accordance with the Local Government Pension Scheme”.

A spokesman said Mr Pickles’ guidance was considered and external legal advice sought before they made the payment.

At Broadland and South Norfolk councils large exit packages were also agreed as management teams were merged and cut.

The two councils paid £950,000 in total to five different staff members - an average of just under £200,000 each.

South Norfolk Council spent £594,000 on exit packages for two staff. Picture: South Norfolk CounciSouth Norfolk Council spent £594,000 on exit packages for two staff. Picture: South Norfolk Counci

The highest payments were at South Norfolk Council which paid a total of almost £600,000 to two managers.

But a spokesman for South Norfolk and Broadland Councils claimed the payouts actually saved taxpayers’ money.

They said: “While this is a significant figure, it has already been more than paid back in savings through the merger of the two councils’ staff teams.”

They added the merger of management was saving the two councils £8m over five years and said: “These figures need to be put in the context of the overall project to join the officer team across the two authorities.”

A merger of management teams between Broadland and South Norfolk councils led to the large exit packages, the councils said. Image: Broadland CouncilA merger of management teams between Broadland and South Norfolk councils led to the large exit packages, the councils said. Image: Broadland Council

Norwich City Council, meanwhile, paid one employee £181,975 when they left.

Another staff member was given £95,820 for a compulsory redundancy.

A city council spokesman said the payments included redundancy and a payment to the manager’s pension fund as they took early retirement.

The biggest payout at Norfolk County Council, meanwhile, was £111,000.

A spokesman said that this too was for a pension following the early retirement of a senior employee.

They added that the council would save money because it did not recruit a new person to the post after the manager left.

The highest payments at Breckland and Great Yarmouth councils were £31,000 and £55,000 respectively.

West Norfolk Council has not published its accounts for 2019/20.

All councils refused to say who the payments were made to.

•Still no cap

More than £30m was handed out in pay-offs to staff at Norfolk County Council between 2010 and 2015, an investigation by this newspaper found in 2016. It included six-figure payouts to some council chiefs.

At the time the government said it wanted to introduce a cap of £95,000 on public sector payoffs. However, that has still not happened.

Last year, the government ran a consultation on the proposed cap and published draft regulations.

Then in July 2020 it published its response to that consultation. It said it would make changes to the proposals before taking them forward, but it is unclear when that will happen.


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