York council chief executive gets £400K payout agreed in secret meeting

City of York Council’s chief executive has taken early retirement and what is understood to be a £400,000 settlement – after a secret meeting to decide her future.

Chief executive Mary Weastell has been off sick since early last summer – and a council source said the meeting had agreed the six-figure settlement for her.

It is believed Ms Weastell was planning to take the council to an employment tribunal.

But a public council meeting on Monday – from which the press and public were excluded on the grounds of confidentiality – is understood to have agreed to her early retirement.

York’s local democracy reporter asked the council for details of the decision made at the meeting but no further information was provided.

Where’s the transparency?

Leader of City of York Council Keith Aspden
Under council guidance published in the meeting documents, if a council officer is made redundant or an exit payment of more than £100,000 is agreed, the decision should be approved in public at a full council meeting.

But – if the departure of a member of staff is classified as early retirement – this is not necessary and the details do not need to be discussed at a public meeting.

Speaking after the local elections in May when the Liberal Democrat and Green Party took over administration at the council, councillor Keith Aspden committed to improving transparency.

Speaking at the time he said: “We remain committed to working with all parties on shared areas of interest, particularly in improving the transparency of the council and giving a greater voice to residents.”

Kept in the dark

City of York Council chief executive Mary Weastell
Ms Weastell was appointed chief executive in 2016 – after serving as chief executive of Selby District Council.

A cross-party appointing panel was made up of Lib Dem Cllr Keith Aspden, former Conservative Cllr David Carr, and Labour’s Cllr Janet Looker.

Speaking in September 2016 Ms Weastell said there will always be some areas of council activity that have to be kept confidential, adding: “But if we cannot give out information, we have to think about explaining why.

“We want to be open, honest and transparent. I think the renewed commitment by the politicians to be a listening council is the way forward.”

We have not been able to reach Ms Weastell for a comment. It is understood there is a non-disclosure agreement linked to the issue.

Claire Foale, head of communications at City of York Council, said: “I can confirm that members considered the early retirement of a member of the corporate management team at the staffing matters and urgency meeting on 17 February.

“It is not appropriate for us to comment as we do not share information about individuals, we will provide an update as soon as possible.”