Harrogate councillors approve new rules on staff exit packages after review

Harrogate councillors have approved new rules on staff severance packages after a review into the payments

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 4:33 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 4:34 pm
Harrogate Borough Council's headquarters on St Luke's Mount.

.The payments, which can include allowances, hardship payments and paid leave for departing staff, will now have to be approved by the borough council leader and chief executive, and reported on an annual basis.

Any payments over £100,000 will also require approval from full council.

Previously, the payments were signed off by a monitoring officer and only those to senior staff were reported annually.

The new rules were approved at a meeting on Monday after independent auditors Mazars earlier this year warned the previous process risked a lack of balance between "inappropriate expenditure" and "allowing ineffective employment relationships to continue".

This also came as figures published in the council's annual statement of accounts showed £354,000 was paid out to 19 former employees in 2019/20 for wider payout packages, also including redundancy costs and compensation for loss of office.

This was an increase from the previous financial year when £278,000 was agreed for 15 staff.

The statement of accounts also showed one member of staff received a £62,000 exit package in 2019/2020, although it is not known what job title they had or how much they were earning before they left their role.

The only member of staff who was named in the document was former director of community Paul Campbell who left last year and was paid £55,065 in compensation for loss of office.

Mr Campbell had an annual salary of £89,727 and oversaw a range of council services including emergency planning, housing, parks, waste and health and safety.

He has not been replaced since leaving 18 months ago and his responsibilities are being shared by other directors, the council previously said.

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At Monday's audit and governance committee meeting, Jennifer Norton, head of legal and governance at the council, explained the new rules to councillors.

She said: "In accordance with current regulations, you do receive in the annual report the remuneration of senior employees including details of any severance payments.

"What I am proposing in line with government guidance is that regardless of seniority, all severance payments are reported on an annual basis.

"In terms of member involvement in the approval process, then the government guidance says that should sit with the leader of the council, which is what is proposed here."

The new rules were unanimously voted through by members of the committee.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter