Outgoing council boss heralded as ‘honourable’ over exit payment

Council chief executive, Tony Clark, left, pictured in 2019 with Judith Donovan from the Keep Me Posted campaign and Councillor Ian Threlfall.

A long-serving local authority chief executive has been heralded as “honourable” after it emerged his proposed exit payment has been limited to £96,000, less than half of the severance packages set to be given to his counterparts at other district councils.

A full meeting of Richmondshire District Council on Tuesday will consider handing its chief executive Tony Clark £61,000 redundancy pay that he is contractually entitled to, £24,000 in lieu of 12 weeks’ notice and a cost of nearly £11,000 to the pension fund.

The role of Mr Clark and other district and borough council chief executives will end on March 31 as the seven district areas within North Yorkshire are abolished as local government areas alongside the county council and replaced by a single county-wide authority.

Recent weeks have seen significant controversy as Hambleton District Council approved an exit package of around £225,000 for its chief executive Justin Ives, despite criticism from the Taxpayers Alliance and union officials.

Selby councillors are this week due to discuss a proposed £210,000 redundancy package for its outgoing chief officer Janet Waggott.

A report to the Richmondshire meeting states that officers are aware of  “concerns about the regularity and propriety of severance payments” made by other councils in connection with the termination of chief executives’ employment.

It states: “The proposals put forward in this report have been subject to external and independent legal advice and a copy of the business case has been shared with the council’s external auditors.”

The report adds while there is no provision in the chief executive’s employment contract for him to be paid in lieu of notice, there was no reasonably practicable alternative but to award Mr Clark the extra money as there would be no role for him to perform after March 31.

The authority’s opposition leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock, said the council had always been more prudent and aware of costs than some other local authorities and that Mr Clark was behaving honourably.

She said: “I am pleased that this proposal has been limited to this amount. It is more realistic compared to some councils. I know legally we have to pay redundancy, but in the future it will mean we only have to pay one chief executive, rather than eight across the county.

“It is quite right that the chief executive of Richmondshire has agreed to take less than all the other district councils that we have heard from so far.”

Richmond councillor and Independent group leader on North Yorkshire County Council, Councillor Stuart Parsons said while £96,000 would sound like a lot of money to many residents, compared to other outgoing district council chief executives in the county it was a small sum.

He said it would have been easy for Mr Clark to pursue receiving much higher sums following the precedents set at other councils in North Yorkshire.

Coun Parsons said: “It shows other councils what they could have done had they been minded to do it to limit the impact on their council taxpayers.

“I would like to personally thank Tony for showing astounding restraint and being so careful with our money, still thinking of Richmondshire despite the fact that he is about to be made redundant.”

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