An opposition councillor in Bristol has accused the council of acting illegally when it signed off exit packages for staff. The council was accused of illegally effecting payments totalling to over £100, 000 to each of the 24 former staff members.
Tim Kent, who is a Liberal Democrat member, said that the council made the exit payments to staff members who exited the organization between 2016 and 2020.
According to Cllr Kent, payments over £100, 000 require full council vote for approval. This is according to the Localism Act of 2011 that provides guidelines on council finance approval.
One provision of the act states that local authorities should publish their payments policy every year. Additionally, the act states that they should include any termination of payments worth over £100, 000 and which must be approved by the full council.
However, the council spokesperson has defended the actions of the Bristol council terming the allegations as baseless. He noted that the guidance is not legislation, and therefore the council has discretion over any pay policy adopted.
However, the spokesperson did not confirm or deny whether the council had made the 24 exit payments to the former non-senior staff. Instead, he explained that the full council approved all the policies regarding payments made to non-senior staff members. However, these policies do not give a clear direction on exit packages approval for non-senior officials.
The spokesperson noted that the involvement of members in the approval of a severance payment package is indirectly prohibited. Therefore, members could be involved in the dismissal of any officer whose rank is below the deputy chief officer.
Therefore, the council dismissed the 24 staff members without making consultations with the full council. The council also went ahead and processed the staffs exit packages in line with the employment rules.