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BERKSHIRE PROBES PERFORMANCE BONUSES

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A barrister has been called in to investigate the operation of a county council's performance related pay scheme. T...
A barrister has been called in to investigate the operation of a county council's performance related pay scheme. The move at Berkshire CC follows claims that members were not properly consulted over payment of a £9,000 bonus to a chief officer. County treasurer David Bowles subsequently left to form a privatised financial service for the council.

Auditors were called in to investigate the payment by the then chief executive Tony Allen before he left the council's employment after members' controversial decision to abolish the post. In the latest move the chairman's committee, comprising leaders of all political groups on the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent controlled council, is to appoint a barrister to conduct a 'comprehensive investigation' into the bonus payment and the scheme.

Lawrence Silverman, Labour joint leader since the Conservatives were ousted in May last year, said: 'We were aware the scheme was being operated and that people were being paid bonuses, but members were not involved. 'We need to know how it was supposed to work and how it actually did work, and the extent to which procedures were being followed'.

According to officers and members, it is not clear whether the rules on the management of the Berkshire Top Management Scheme were adhered to after it was set up four years ago. Now the scheme appears in jeopardy. Mr Silverman says he is in favour of replacing it with an assessment system not directly related to salaries.

He said: 'It has created all sorts of tensions we could do without'.
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