The rural council which faced criticism over a move to award its chief executive a £225,000 exit payment looks set to pay settlements averaging over £190,000 to each of its four remaining chief officers.
Hambleton District Council’s cabinet will on Tuesday consider paying £767,065 to four senior officers who have decided they do not wish to work for the unitary North Yorkshire Council after Hambleton ceases to exist from April 1.
The move comes a month after Hambleton, which serves Bedale, Thirsk, Northallerton and Easingwold, was criticised by the TaxPayers Alliance and Unison over the amount of its pay-off for its chief executive.
An officer’s report to the meeting underlines, while North Yorkshire County Council had requested for staff to be transferred to the unitary, if any chief officer wished not to transfer then they could “opt not to and seek a new role in another organisation” at no additional cost to the taxpayer.
It adds if any chief officer feels that the post for which they are being ring-fenced at the new authority was not a suitable alternative to their current role, “then they are at liberty to challenge that”.
However, the report states the chief officers “are genuinely unsettled, anxious and hold the view that there is no suitable role for them based on their engagement with the county council and that they are at best looking at supernumerary positions pending redundancy”.
The report adds: “They are also concerned to settle these anxieties for the good of their health and to allow them to focus on delivering high performing services, a well managed and orderly transition and the best support that can be offered both to their staff and to members of this council in that period.
“They each wish to settle these matters by mutual agreement on the basis of agreeing to leave the service of the council.”
The officer’s report states if any chief officer did transfer to the new authority and was then later made redundant due to lack of suitable alternative employment the costs incurred could be up to £1.1m.
Nevertheless, the report adds the maximum statutory compensation for an unfair dismissal is currently capped at £93,878 and of “the potential negative reputational impact on the council of apparently large sums being paid to individuals upon leaving the council”.
In response to the proposal, a Unison spokeswoman said Hambleton had angered staff by looking to award the payments to senior officer on the basis they did not want to work for North Yorkshire Council.
She said: “If the other three or four hundred staff at Hambleton did not want to move across would they get an exit package?
“While they have been talking about the jobs may not be suitable for them they are no different to anybody else as far as our members are concerned. The new council is looking to fill those jobs.
“Hambleton are saying that a lot of the £770,000 is linked to pensions, but this is still £770,000 from the taxpayers of Hambleton.”