Large payouts for senior officers departing West Sussex County Council continue

Large payouts are still being given to senior officers leaving West Sussex County Council, new figures have shown.

In the previous financial year of 2019/20 former chief executive Nathan Elvery received what was essentially a £265,000 exit package.

He has since been replaced by Becky Shaw, who now heads up county councils in both East and West Sussex, with her total salary and remuneration costs split 50/50 between the two authorities.

And the financial statement for 2020/21 reveals three more large payouts to officers departing WSCC.

County Hall Chichester. Pic S Robards SR2105051 SUS-210505-160534001

Kim Curry, executive director for adults and health until April 2020, received £110,473 in compensation for loss of employment, while settlements were reached with both the former executive director for communities and public protection (£88,358) and director for human resources and organisational development (£34,000) in relation to 2019/20.

A spokesman for the county council said: “All such compensation claims will include contractual payments such as pay for notice periods and will include compensation due when the employment is ended earlier than planned or to settle specific contractual claims in the most economic way.”

In total 43 exit packages, either agreed departures or compulsory redundancies, cost the council £1.1m in 2020/21 which it says ‘reflect the fact that there were a number of senior departures during the year’.

This total cost was roughly the same as the figure for 2019/20 but for almost double the number of exit packages at 81.

Meanwhile the number of non-school staff receiving more than £50,000 remuneration for the year went up from 427 to 481.

The accounts say this increase is primarily attributable to the impact of pay awards and pay progression moving existing employees over the threshold during the year.

The county council was also asked about the size of payments to recruitment agencies to fill senior interim posts.

In 2020/21, it paid £173,400 to Hamptons Resourcing for the services of an executive director for adults and health from April to November 2020 and £249,423 to the McLean Partnership Ltd for the services of an interim director for human resources and organisational development.

The council spokesman said: “These posts both needed to be filled quickly at a very critical time especially because of the additional service and community impact at the start of the global pandemic. It was important that the council secured very experienced and skilled officers to meet those challenges. The adults services post has since been filled on a permanent basis and the HR/OD role is in the final stages of a permanent recruitment.”

Meanwhile payments of £154,866 have been made to East Sussex County Council for the shared services of Ms Shaw in 2020/21.

East Sussex’s own draft accounts show it paid Ms Shaw £138,960 total remuneration, made up of £101,927 salary, fees and allowances, £16,236 for additional duties and £20,797 pension contribution.

The additional duties payment is to reflect the requirement to work across both councils.

WSCC was asked about the justification for the size of the combined salary and how the split was calculated.

In response, a spokesman said: “The total salary paid to the chief executive reflects the fact that she fulfils the role for both councils. It is set at the appropriate market rate and reflects extensive and complex responsibilities involved.

“Both councils benefit from the extensive experience of Ms Shaw and the ability to draw on learning from the work done in each council as well as the improved liaison with common partners across Sussex and the increased authority and purchase the two councils gain regionally and with Government.

“For West Sussex the appointment was also made at a time when a number of service improvement plans required prompt and focused attention by the council’s leadership and the appointment, as part of a wider local improvement partnership with East Sussex County Council, is delivering the council’s objectives for the improvement work.

“The two councils share the salary costs 50/50 and the arrangement has created significant savings for each authority. Any disparity in the sums in the accounts relates to the two authorities dealing with payments differently. West Sussex costs includes employer national insurance contribution costs and East Sussex figures do not.”