North Lanarkshire Council leader Jim Logue accused the opposition SNP Group of ‘collective amnesia’ after it criticised a massive redundancy package given to an official.
Former assistant chief executive Janice Hewitt took voluntary redundancy while on secondment to the Health and Social Care Integration Joint Board, which is a partnership organisation between NHS Lanarkshire and the council, and serving as its chief officer.
Ms Hewitt received £450,802 compensation for loss of office – more than treble her salary.
However, a council spokeswoman said three quarters of this money went to the pension fund with the remainder being allocated in a one-off lump sum in line with council policy as well as a statutory redundancy payment.
The framework for redundancy payments are arrived at via discussions between COSLA, the Scottish Government and trade unions.
The council spokeswoman added said: “Senior level restructures have delivered £413,000 savings each year.
“The remuneration package was calculated in line with the council’s procedures. Employees being made redundant are entitled to a contractual redundancy payment and to access their pension entitlement in accordance with the pension regulations.
“In addition, the council’s own rules state that restructure costs must be paid back within three years. In this case the payback period is two years. So, from 2021 this is a saving of £132,301 each and every year.”
Both the Scottish Government and Audit Scotland have suggested there may be reason to investigate the payment ensure public confidence and SNP Group depute leader Jordan Linden revealed he had previously raised concerns of his own.
He said: “At a recent meeting of the Integration Joint Board I raised the issue of the financial figures pertaining to the voluntary redundancy of the former employee in question.
“I asked a series of questions including whether it was right that an employee should walk out the door with half a million pounds; when my colleagues and I are being asked to find savings options for the budget process and the administration is making cuts to janitors, classroom assistants and grass cutting staff.
“My questions were dismissed as being a matter solely for the council and the council leader responded that it was standard practice in line with National Guidelines.
“Clearly this cannot be the case as it has received comments of enquiry from the Scottish Government and Auditors.
“Therefore, the SNP Group will be asking that where possible, these matters are laid out in a transparent fashion and that our questions including those of the public on how this can be justified, must be answered.”
Councillor Logue claimed the SNP knew about the details of the redundancy for nine months and accused them of jumping on the ‘bandwagon’.
He said: “There has never been a bandwagon in which the SNP in North Lanarkshire have refused to hitch themselves.
“The SNP actually voted to make this person redundant at the Policy and Resources Committee in September. Of course, having now seen the misleading and inaccurate headlines in the press, collective amnesia appears to have set in amongst their group as to how such a situation has arisen.
“As SNP cuts to our council start to take hold, they should spend more time asking their Government for fair funding for North Lanarkshire rather than complaining about decisions that have been made as a result of their votes.”