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Whitehall payoffs put councils in shade

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Three civil servants have received redundancy deals topping £200,000, according to the Department for Communities & Local Government’s annual accounts.

Council leaders and senior officers described the payments to officials who left either the department, Government Offices or the Planning Inspectorate in 2010-11 as generous, compared with local government arrangements that have been criticised by ministers.

The £58m cost for 1,381 deals includes three voluntary packages worth more than £200,001, 13 between £150,001 and £200,000 and 66 between £100,001 and £150,000. The average payoff of £42,000 compares with £22,000 at the Local Government Association or, for example, £16,000 at Hampshire CC.

Mary Orton, honorary secretary of the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives, said: “The secretary of state pays departing staff levels of compensation that few if any senior council staff could even hope for.

“Perhaps Eric Pickles’ comments about council chief executives getting football manager-sized payoffs should be directed closer to home.”

DCLG declined to name the recipients of the £200,000 packages, but one official who was named was former director general for regions and communities Joe Montgomery, right, who received a £131,843 payout when he left in January.

According to the accounts, the headcount within DCLG has fallen by 8% and 15% on 2009-10 and 2008-09 numbers respectively.

Anne Gibson, president of the Public Sector People Managers’ Association and Norfolk CC’s head of human resources and organisational development, said the civil service redundancy compensation had “always been more generous” than local government and the gap had widened as more councils reduced severance terms.

The civil service compensation formula allows a week’s salary for every year worked, up to a maximum of 89 weeks. Ms Gibson said Norfolk’s research covering 27 councils showed maximums ranging from 6 to 66 weeks. However, she emphasised that people should be compensated for loss of employment.

Research commissioned by Hampshire CC leader Ken Thornber (Con) showed similar results. “The civil service leads a different life from those of us in local government who are bearing the brunt of the cuts,” he said.

A DCLG spokesman said the civil service scheme had recently been reformed, with the maximum payout reduced from six years to 21 months for voluntary exits and 12 months for compulsory redundancies.

Meanwhile, the accounts show DCLG paid £333,135 to Capita for the services of acting finance director Stephen Park between April 2010 and January 2011.

A spokesman said: “There was an urgent need for a senior finance professional with public sector experience.”

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