Revealed: Wakefield Council redundancy pay-offs

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Wakefield Council paid out nearly £7.5million in exit packages to departing staff during the past two years.

Official accounts showed the local authority negotiated pay-off deals with 285 employees between April 2016 and March 2018.

Although all the departures were classed as redundancies, only seven of these were compulsory.

The biggest pay-off to any individual was £174,000, while another received £162,000 as part of their agreed exit package.

The average payment to all departing employees during the last financial year was more than £36,000.

The council says it has had to make £171million worth of savings since 2010 having had its budget repeatedly slashed by central government. It added that the redundancies made in the last two years have cut costs overall.

Last year, leader Peter Box said that most council services would be reduced, with some ended altogether.

He added that the spending of “every pound” was under review.

In addition to the redundancy pay-offs, the council also agreed for 16 staff over the age of 55 to take flexible retirement last year.

This allowed them to reduce their hours while still having their local government pension paid.

Last year, pension contributions for these employees cost the council £109,000, but the local authority says the arrangement “will deliver savings” from the cut in the number of hours worked.

Neil Warren, chief finance officer at Wakefield Council, said: “To reduce staff usually involves a redundancy process. The council always seeks to avoid compulsory redundancies and seeks to achieve reductions by voluntary means.

“This is often cheaper than compulsory redundancy which requires having to go through a lengthy formal consultation process. The redundancy payments are in line with our redundancy policy. In addition if the individual is aged over 55, and in the local government pension scheme, the pension is automatically released incurring early payment costs.

“Redundant posts are deleted from the structure which covers the cost of the redundancy and other costs but makes savings once these costs have been repaid which enables the council to achieve to achieve the savings target.

“Of the £7.4m spent on severance costs across financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18, £3.8m related to payments made to individuals for redundancy pay and £3.6m was paid to the pension scheme in respect of early payment costs.  Releasing these staff will enable the Council to reduce costs by almost £37m over the next five years.”

In numbers

Number of redundancies at Wakefield Council between April 2016 and March 2018 – 285

Number of compulsory redundancies – 7

Total amount paid to redundant staff in exit packages – £7, 416,000

Biggest pay-off to any departing employee – £174,000

Average pay-off to departing staff 2016/17 – £21,130

Average pay-off to departing staff 2017/18 – £36, 118