Inquiry as payouts to departing council staff more than double over past year

Lewisham Council offices. Pic: Flickr/Steve Cadman

Councillors have ordered an inquiry after it was revealed that more than £2 million was paid to staff leaving Lewisham Council during this year, more than double the £925,000 paid in the previous year.

According to the council’s post audit statement for 2019/20, the number of exit packages had more than doubled compared to 2018/19, going from 54 to 119. 

The number of packages has increased across a range of cost bands. For example, the number of packages valued from £60,000 to £80,000 has quadrupled from the previous year.

Councillor Alan Hall, vice-chair of the council’s public accounts selects committee and audit panel member, has prompted the council to investigate this increase during a council meeting last week.

Hall asked: “Will the cabinet member and the chair of the audit panel ensure that a report is made to the next audit panel so that we can examine any changes since we met last?”

Councillor Amanda De Ryk, cabinet member for finance and resources, responded: “In terms of the exit packages, obviously when people have done many years of service at the council and leave then it is appropriate that we pay them accordingly, but I agree it would be good to investigate the increase.”

Source: post audit statement, page 71

The audit statement says: “These costs include redundancy payments to employees which were charged to the CIES. They also include payments to the Pension Fund in respect of the extra pension costs of employees who were granted early access to their pensions.”

A Lewisham Council spokesperson told Eastlondonlines: “Exit packages include redundancy payments, payment in lieu of notice and payments to the Pension Fund for those who qualify for early access to their local government pension. Payments vary depending on salary, age and length of service.”

“The number of exit packages in 2019/2020 more than doubled in the previous year and included a higher number of Director level staff which would account for the increase.”

This comes after the news of the council’s £25 million overspend, leading to budget cuts such as scrapping free travel passes for vulnerable residents of the Borough.

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