Reform needed to council payments

THIS week’s story about the cost to council taxpayers of the departures of Babergh and Mid Suffolk chief executives Pat Rockall and Andrew Good showed just how expensive the loss of posts at authorities across the country will be.

I have no criticism at all of Mrs Rockall and Mr Good – nor of the authorities that employ them.

They are outstanding public servants who have had long and successful careers. They have reached the top of their profession – but compared with other chief executives their salaries were by no means excessive.

The total cost to the taxpayers of their departures will be more than �500,000. Only a fraction of this will come to them in redundancy pay – and much of that will be eaten up by tax.

Most of the money will be transferred from their employers’ bank account to the Suffolk Pension Fund’s bank account to cover the cost of the early retirement to which they are entitled having been made redundant over the age of 55.

However, if that is the cost of redundancy for two, albeit well paid, public servants, what will be the cost of such action across all authorities in Suffolk?

Of course not everyone who is made redundant will be over 55 and therefore entitled to early retirement.

Most Read

But with the Hutton Report in the government’s in-tray which threatens to shake up public sector pensions completely, I would not blame anyone over 55 who saw the opportunity to take early retirement and grabbed it with both hands!

That will, of course, leave local authorities with huge bills for which they have to budget. The figures could turn out to be eye-watering.

The Hutton Report looks at reforming public sector pensions including the options for early retirement – and seems certain to be the basis of pension reforms over the next few years.

But I suspect a rash of redundancies over the next few years will prompt the government to take action sooner rather than later.

And there could be positives for society as a whole from the early retirement of senior council officials with bags of experience and the drive to do something with the rest of their lives.

If the county is successful with its policy of divesting services to voluntary bodies, who are likely to manage the bodies?

It’s not hard to imagine they will be set up with help and advice from people who know how the services operate – ie former public servants who have recently taken early retirement!

So you could well end up with the same services being run by the same people but with their income coming from the Suffolk Pension Fund rather than Suffolk County Council!