Council exit package costs triple to £3m

The cost of exit packages for Bristol City Council staff tripled last year to almost £3million, new figures reveal.

A total of 106 employees were paid a combined £2.9million to leave the authority in 2022/23 – a huge 58 per cent rise on the 67 workers who collectively received £1million the year before.

It means the average payout has soared from less than £15,000 in 2021/22 to more than £27,000 last year.

The authority says its succession planning policy has allowed staff to apply to leave and receive a severance payment which has resulted in the overall cost increase, but that it will ultimately save taxpayers money in subsequent years.

The rise comes despite a big drop in the number of compulsory redundancies – there were just eight compared with 46 in the previous 12 months, according to the local authority’s annual draft statement of accounts.

The number of non-compulsory departures involving exit packages – defined as “the cost to the council of early termination of staff employment before normal retirement age”, which includes voluntary severance and early pensions – rocketed from 21 to 98 employees in 2022/23.

The highest two payouts were £88,000 and £66,000, although the recipients are not named in the accounts. These were in addition to £62,317 given to Bristol Waste managing director Tony Lawless and £65,155 to finance director Adam Henshaw in July 2022 as “compensation for loss of office”.

Forty of the 106 payments were worth up to £20,000, 35 were between £20,001 and £40,000, 29 from £40,001 to £60,000 and one each in the next two bands.

A note in the papers said: “The numbers and costs include packages agreed at the end of the year but not paid.

“Costs include the costs of early payment of pension in the cases of early retirement.”

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “In line with the council’s corporate strategy as approved by full council, the local authority has been making savings over the last couple of years.

“The succession planning policy put in place to enable voluntary redundancies, allowing employees to apply to leave subject to approval and receive a severance payment, has resulted in an increase in the total number and cost of exit packages in 2022/23. This provides a recurring saving within the budget in subsequent years, saving taxpayers’ money.

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service