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Healey defends unitaries' jobs bill

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Local government minister John Healey has defended claims that at least£32.5m has been paid to council staff losing their jobs because of the creation of unitary authorities.

According to the Daily Telegraph, which surveyed the new councils, the figure includes redundancy payments to at least 10 council chief executives.

It says one local authority chief executive is thought to be in line for a pay-off worth£880,000, including a pension entitlement - a record for a departing council official.

The paper asked all the new unitary councils for details of redundancy payments made to former chief executives who had left or were planning to leave as a result of the shake-up.

It said that figures released by three of the nine unitary authorities shows that£32.5m was paid in redundancy and pension payments to staff:

  • Shropshire's bill was for£11.5m for an estimated 182 staff, including£6.7m on direct redundancy costs and£4.8m on extra pension payments

  • Wiltshire spent£5.5m spent on redundancy packages for 29 staff

  • Cheshire West and Chester spent£15.5m was spent on a redundancy programme for 200 staff

Local Government minister John Healey said: "With a change of this scale there are bound to be costs but these are dwarfed by the total projected savings and other benefits for residents.

"Replacing 44 councils with just nine makes economic sense with over£100m of savings every year -£22m of which will come from cutting senior posts.

"This will be used to reinvest in public services or keep council tax pressures down and the stronger leadership and clout will help these new councils better champion their area during these tough economic times."

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