Council's +£600m "Golden Goodbyes"

27 December 2017, 07:18 | Updated: 27 December 2017, 07:20

money

Local authorities across Scotland have spent more than £627 million on exit packages for staff in the last six years, figures show.

More than 15,000 severance deals have been struck by councils for outgoing staff since 2011/12, according to public spending watchdog Audit Scotland.

In that time the average package paid was £40,000.

An average of six severance deals a day were agreed across Scotland's 32 council in the past financial year, at a total cost of £78 million.

The number and average cost both fell in 2016/17 compared to the previous year, with cases down by 465 to 2,195 and payouts falling by just under £2,000 in real terms.

Since 2011/12 the number of local authority severance deals have dropped by almost half while the cost has fallen from an average of £39,525.

The Scottish Conservatives have said the figures, published by Audit Scotland as part of a wider report into local government finances last month, show councils should tighten procedures.

The report also found £79 million in council reserves was used last year for general running costs and some local authorities risk running out of General Fund reserves if officials continue to use them at currently planned levels.

Scottish Conservative local government spokesman Alexander Stewart said: "People will be horrified that hundreds of millions of pounds have been used in this way.

"Everyone understands the need for councils to become more efficient, and reducing the headcount in certain departments may be a way of doing that.

"But the average payout is £40,000, which means some senior staff will have been getting golden goodbyes to make the eyes water.

"In some cases contracts signed long ago may have dictated an overly-generous payment, but this is something local authorities need to clamp down on.

"There's no point trying to make efficiency savings in one area while millions are being needlessly wasted in another.

"It's no wonder some councils are burning through their cash reserves just to keep their head above water when this massive spend is considered."

A spokesman for local government umbrella body Cosla said: "It is wrong to see these figures in isolation, they gave to be viewed in context.

"Many of them will be as a result of streamlining in line with workforce planning - as councils streamline. Also many will be spend to save departures that result in savings over the longer term."