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Union accusations of ‘golden goodbyes’ at Southampton City Council
UNION leaders have accused Tory council chiefs in Southampton of revealing massive £432,000 “golden goodbyes” for two top executives to make it cheaper to sack lower paid workers.
Taxpayer watchdogs branded the redundancy payments for the council’s former environment and housing bosses “far beyond extremely generous”.
Unite last night said the high pay-offs were revealed by the council to justify a plan to cap future payments at £30,000 as they prepare to lay off 143 more workers next year to save cash.
The council’s long-serving executive director for environment boss Lorraine Brown took voluntary redundancy in the summer with a £338,000 package, including £204,000 in early pension contributions.
Fellow executive director for neighbourhoods Nick Murphy received a £93,500 compulsory redundancy payment then got a new £140,000- a-year job a month later as chief executive of Nottingham City Homes, managing 29,000 council homes.
They were laid off in a cost-saving shakeup of the council’s top managers.
Unite regional organiser Ian Woodland, who represents bin collectors and other workers in Mrs Brown’s former department, said: “This is all about making it cheaper for the council to sack its workers.
By highlighting the generous packages of senior executives it gives the Conservative leadership the opportunity of eroding the packages of the lower paid.”
Mr Woodland said cheapening redundancy terms would make council services more attractive to private companies, who will be given responsibility for cutting running costs by a quarter over the next three years under what he called a “privatisation charter”.
He said Unite members, who are in the seventh month of industrial action over pay cuts of up to 5.5 per cent imposed in July, would take a “robust view” on the latest cuts proposal.
Unison regional secretary Phil Wood said council staff “are going to wonder what’s happening to them”.
Redundancy packages at the council are currently boosted by 60 per cent for compulsory redundancies and doubled for voluntary redundancies. Conservatives say the scheme, which is costing £6m this year including pension contributions, is “unaffordable”.
They want to axe the discretionary multipliers from April next year and cap pay-outs at £30,000. A consultation will run until January 20.
Councillor leader Royston Smith said: “It’s not to sack workers, it’s because we cannot afford to do it any more. We’ve got no money.”
He said redundancy packages would continue to compare favourably with both the public and private sector but the council needed to end the “bigger payments”.