Council finally comes clean over £400K payout – on chief executive’s final day

16 Mar 2020 @ 8.40 pm
| Politics

Mary Weastell leaves City of York Council today (Monday, 16 March) – a move that has cost taxpayers £404,000.

Thanking the chief executive for her work as she takes early retirement, city leaders finally came clean on the bill.

It was back in July 2019 when YorkMix first broke the news that Ms Weastell was off work on long-term sick leave.

She never came back. Then in February we reported how the authority had come to a secret settlement with the council boss.

For weeks the council refused to comment on the finances. But today they confirmed that the deal has cost the city £404K.

‘An open and transparent council’

City of York Council’s West Offices. Photograph: YorkMix

Debbie Mitchell, the council’s head of finance, said:

  • As an open and transparent council, we want to share how much Ms Weastell has received as part of her early retirement.

    There are strict rules in place that govern payments due to individuals and, in line with these statutory requirements, the council has incurred costs of c £404k.

    The majority of this sum around £330k is statutory payments and pension strain costs to the authority that have to be paid.

Ms Weastell’s early retirement has given the council “the opportunity to consider a restructure of the council’s corporate management team”, council leader Keith Aspden said today.

“As part of this, we have been able to identify ways to save money through efficiencies and these proposals will ensure that costs can be met through existing budgets with no additional impact for the taxpayer.”

Ms Mitchell said they would start a consultation on changes that would save “at least £81,000 per annum”.

‘Open to ridicule’

Anna Perrett

Deputy leader of the Labour Group Cllr Anna Perrett attacked the payoff and the plan.

“The council is leaving itself open to ridicule on a national scale both with the Lib Dem council leader’s bumper payoff to get rid of the chief executive, the reasons for which are still shrouded in secrecy – and now with a new senior structure proposed that replicates the chief executive role but under a new title, on pretty much the same pay that an existing member of staff will simply fall into,” she said.

“The new structure has come about solely because Cllr Aspden needs to deal with the political problem of paying off the chief executive, something Labour voted against.

“It’s entirely inappropriate to think major decisions on how the council is structured are being made in this manner, something Labour is also completely opposed to.”

Cllr Perrett said the council had used “significant use of taxpayers’ money to secure a gagging order for the departing chief executive” – which demonstrated “there is still plenty that the Lib Dem-Green council would prefer the public didn’t know about this whole affair”.

‘A privilege to serve’

City of York Council chief executive Mary Weastell

On her last day Cllr Aspden thanked Mary Weastell for her work for York.

Ms Weastell herself said:

  • I am proud and privileged to serve as the chief executive of the one of the finest cities in the world with its wonderful culture and history and fantastic prospects for the future.

    I would in particular like to thank the council and partners for their commitment and support over the years and wish the council every success in continuing to deliver the needs of residents and take advantage of the opportunities in the city now and for the future.