Proposals to save money by axing the CEX post at Redcar and Cleveland Council have failed to take account of a key government change. The ‘Public Sector Exit Payments cap’ which will restrict payouts to £95,000 is currently going through parliament, and is aimed at controlling the amount paid to senior managers when they leave the employment of a public-sector organisation.
In a report axing the post to be considered by a ‘Special Full Council’ meeting on Wednesday there is no mention of this legislation or the implications for the timing of the decision. New leader Cllr Mary Lanigan of the Independent Group has failed to provide a plan for the new leadership arrangements. With further information promised ‘later in the municipal year’ and consultation about a permanent management structure to take place in ‘due course’, opposition Councillors have been left in the dark.
And whilst savings of £220,000 are identified there are no guarantees that any will be realised or how soon real time savings will kick in. Currently other senior officers have agreed to take on additional responsibilities, including arranging for a possible autumn General Election, for no extra pay but this is a situation that is unlikely to continue for the long-term.
More worryingly we have had no assurance that the CEX will work her three months’ notice leaving the council with no experienced leadership at a time when a new steel crisis cannot be ruled out, the potential of a General Election being called and with proposals for £18m of further cuts needing to be drawn up urgently.
Cllr Carl Quartermain, Leader of the Labour Group said:
“The Labour Group of course, recognises the need to consider all options to protect our frontline services, jobs and what is our paltry budget as allocated by the Tory government. However, we are deeply concerned over this change to the senior management structure which was made without any consultation. This is a major decision in which all 59 councillors should have had a say and which with a bit more thought could have saved the council tax payer from having to stump up for a very expensive redundancy package.
“This is effectively a rushed, unthought through decision over the future leadership arrangement, that appears as a large cash saving to appeal to the public. It fails to make any assessment of the ‘Public Sector Exit Payments Cap’ legislation which had this decision been debated and decided over the months ahead, could have big implications for how much this deal will cost Council Tax payers in our Borough. Instead we have a large redundancy pay out of £105,000, plus the extra £230,000 being paid into the pension pot and no indication of when real time savings will kick in. What is more, giving increased responsibility to remaining Directors, usually results in increased rewards. We will be keeping a close eye on the impact of this decision on the budget over the coming years.
“Because of austerity cuts, the previous Labour administrations had been forced to reduce staffing levels across all tiers. These included saving more than £600,000 a year on senior management roles. The difference between Labour and the new Lib Dem/Independent leadership is that we planned these changes carefully, consulted with all councillors and came to a joint agreement about how the new arrangements should work.
“Cllr Lanigan and the Lib Dem/Independent group abandoned this process in favour of making a reckless, unchallenged and unthought through decision that at best will cost people more and at worse could seriously damage our council and services. Like it or not, all 59 councillors are now simply left with one decision, to approve this redundancy package. To reject it at this stage would undoubtedly create a legal battle and an even much higher cost to bear.”