Sunday, 4 July 2010

Compensation for loss of office?

Last week, Cornwall Council’s draft Statement of Accounts 2009/2010 was published. This includes the details of the pay levels for top officers. It showed that 560 officers earned over £50,000 in the last financial year with thirty earning more than £100,000.

The report also shows that the Director of Corporate Support who left voluntarily in March received £78,750 “compensation for loss of office.” It also shows that the Corporate Director for Children, Schools and Families, who resigned in October, also received compensation but I do not know the amount because the draft accounts specify a “duty of confidentiality by virtue of a legal agreement.”

It is fair to say that “backbench” councillors on the new authority are not happy about the situation and questions are being asked about these pay-offs as well as the wider wage bill for senior officers.

I was contacted by the Western Morning News for my views on this situation, part of which was published. A few comments were then posted on the thisiscornwall website about me/councillors which I found unfair.

One person referred to councillors also being on a “gravy train,” there were comments about the part-time nature of councillors’ work and one lady said she did not think that “councillors should earn such a wage of 10,000 per annum unless they are forced to clock in and out every day like other employees.”For the record, there is no gravy train for councillors. And speaking for myself, I am a full time councillor usually working between 40-50 hours on council-related business each week, sometimes it is even more, and I have no other income.

This year, I will receive a basic allowance of £12,128 and a further £3,578 for chairing the Planning Policy Panel.

On the subject of staff pay, redundancy and other payments, etc, I have been consistent and outspoken. It is my belief that there should be less disparity between those at the top and those at lower levels of companies/Councils/etc.

When the unitary authority proposal was pushed through by the Liberal Democrats and senior officers of the County Council, it lead to a number of redundancies. Many of these were to very senior staff members (including the former Chief Executive), who benefited from generous severance packages.

In November last year, I was extremely critical of the decision by Cornwall Council’s cabinet to limit severance payments for future redundancies. I was told that those employees who would lose jobs as a consequence of the ‘transition’ period (ie. the actual shift to the unitary council) would have redundancy payments calculated on the old policies, but later job losses as part of the ‘transformation’ (whether identified in the unitary bid or not) and ‘efficiencies’ would be treated differently through new policies. I disagreed and remember describing the shift as inequitable and morally indefensible. The recently-departed Director of Corporate Support said the change was equitable.

I specifically railed against the fact that the extremely well-paid council officers did extremely well out of past arrangement, but that it would be less-well-paid staff members who would lose out in the future.

At the time I also sought clarification that all staff members would be treated the same in the future. I was told this would be so, but that was clearly untrue as we can see from the payments to the former Directors for Corporate Support and Children, Schools & Families.

1 comment:

Alice Thomas said...
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