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Staff at axed Seeda receive £6m in payoffs
ALMOST £6m of taxpayers’ cash has been given to workers volunteering to quit a doomed regional quango.
One boss at the soon-to-be axed South East England Development Agency (Seeda) received a half-a-million-pound payoff for leaving the discredited Hampshire taxpayer-funded body.
Campaigners have reacted angrily to the revelation that a total of £5.7m of public money has so far been used to pay off 111 workers at the organisation.
Seeda was formed in 1999 to help boost business and stimulate job opportunities across the region, but earlier this year attracted condemnation after it was revealed it had spent almost £25,000 for every job it created in 2010.
Despite boasting a £245m annual budget it claimed only to have “created or safeguarded” 10,000 jobs.
The body has repeatedly been dogged by allegations of wasting money.
Seeda spent more than £17m on three offices between 2005 and 2010.
Its former boss, James Braithwaite, infamously spent £1,000 of taxpayers’ money per week on taxis and a personal driver.
The Government has now moved to axe all nine English regional development agencies by March, to be replaced by Local Enterprise Partnerships made up of business leaders and councillors.
And already half of Seeda’s 220 workers have left and received redundancy payments averaging £51,000 each.
But one member of staff – believed to be £141,800-ayear executive director Jeff Alexander – received up to £500,000.
A total of 15 staff received packages worth more than £100,000.
Mr Alexander is understood to have taken early retirement, aged 53, in March last year. His payoff includes pension provisions, which gave him a lump sum of £51,000 and a further £48,000-a-year income.
Former chief executive Pam Alexander, who quit her £218,000-a-year role last month, is also understood to have received a huge payoff.
Robert Oxley, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said the redundancy payments are unjustifiable and called for the Government to step in.
He said: “The closure has been long overdue. It’s unacceptable for bosses at the agency to leave the taxpayer with a £6m bill for golden goodbyes.”
But Seeda said the payments are all in line with Government rules and payments made since December have been lower because of a change to those guidelines.
Chairman Rob Douglas said: “Seeda’s board has always sought to achieve value for money for the south-east, the agency and the taxpayer.
“This has been a difficult and challenging time for our staff who continue to work hard and with great professionalism.
I know that they are conscious of their reputation and are rightly proud, as I am, of the work they have done for the south-east.”