‘Golden goodbyes’ cost local authority more than £600,000

Scottish Borders Council HQ in Newtown
Scottish Borders Council HQ in Newtown

Scottish Borders Council paid out £613,042 in ‘golden goodbyes’ for departing staff last year.

The figures, released as part of the local authority’s annual accounts, show that a dozen staff members received remuneration as part of an exit package, three of them being paid between £100,000 and £150,000.

The amount paid out to exiting staff in 2018/19 is nearly half a million pounds more than that given out the previous year, when staff received £153,699 in exit packages. As well as the dramatic increase in golden goodbyes, the number of high earners at the council’s Newtown St Boswells headquarters has also increased.

The number of staff taking home more than £50,000, which is more than double the Borders average wage of around £20,000, has increased from 125 in 2017/18 to 136 in 2018/19, with teachers making up the majority of those on the high earners list.

Chief executive Tracey Logan remains top of the rich list, taking home £121,376, although this includes £3,341 for her role as the returning officer during elections and includes ‘benefits other than cash’ which come from a car salary sacrifice scheme.

A foreword to the accounts by Ms Logan reads: “During 2018/19 Scottish Borders Council has achieved significantly higher financial plan savings than ever before, whilst maintaining frontline services for communities wherever possible with £16.4m delivered in year, £11.7m permanently.

“Capital investment in the area is also significantly higher than that in 2017/18.

“Against a very difficult financial background, the council has achieved £16.4m of financial plan savings during 2018/19, £11.7m of which were on a permanent basis; it has delivered £257.5m of revenue spending within budget; it has delivered capital investment of £47.8m in schools, flood protection, roads, lighting and other assets; it has undertaken a five yearly review of all our planning and economic development assets; and delivered back office savings in order to protect front line services in the Borders wherever possible.”

Harry Fone, campaigns manager at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Councils often plead poverty when it comes to their finances, but always seem to find money for bumper payouts for staff.

“Ratepayers do not want to see their hard-earned taxes funding six-figure payouts for council bosses.

“This is why we welcomed the recent news that the government will implement a £95,000 cap on public sector exit payments.”

Since 2013/14, Scottish Borders Council currently has made £60m of cuts to its spending, but is still facing a funding gap of £30m over the next five years.

The accounts are due to be inspected at a meeting of the council’s audit and scrutiny committee, which is chaired by the leader of the opposition Stuart Bell, on Tuesday, June 25.

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “These payments are made as compensation for loss of office in accordance with the Council’s approved policies and procedures and employment legislation.
“These are utilised when there is a business need that roles in the council structure are no longer required.
“It is important to note that these figures include any strain on the pension fund when an employee leaving was entitled to access their occupational pension.”