Council pay packets worth more than £100k can now be approved ‘behind closed doors’, Redbridge Tories claim
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Redbridge Council can now take ‘behind-closed-doors’ decisions on £100,000 recruitment and lay-off payments following a policy change, Conservative councillors have warned.
But the local authority’s Labour administration argues the updated wording of its 2019 payroll policy is necessary to ensure its can recruit top talent and avoid unnecessary costs.
Councillors debated the updated policy at a full council meeting in Redbridge Town Hall, in High Road, on Thursday evening (March 21).
Opposition leader Cllr Linda Huggett (Con, Monkhams) took objection to a change in wording which allows the Labour administration to decide on pay packets unopposed at cabinet meetings.
“Again, these decisions will be taken behind closed doors with their membership only,” she said.
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Reading aloud the new wording to which she objects, she added: “Where practicable and unless the chief executive agrees otherwise termination payments in excess of £100,000 will be agreed by full council or cabinet.”
“The wording should be - ‘termination payments in excess of 100,000 will be agreed by full council or a committee of the council.”
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Responding, Labour leader Jas Athwal added: “You can see that this council will work incredibly hard to make sure that any senior positions that need to be filled don’t stay in our hands waiting for the next committee before we lose good employees.”
He highlighted that the council has reduced its payroll by £28m since 2013.
Cllr Kam Rai (Lab, Goodmayes) added: “I believe that most of this report has been the same for many years.
“It’s taken them 20 years to pick up the same thing.”
But Cllr Michael Duffell (Con, South Woodford) highlighted a 2017 document which appears to state that these decisions can be made by full council only.
“I do not buy the argument that these types of decisions are commercially sensitive, or that they need to be decided quickly or we’ll lose talent,” he added.
“Government should be open and accountable, these provisions are yet another change, one of several that have happened in the 10 months since I was elected which are chipping away at transparency.”
He said: “Government guidance on this is clear. Any salary or severance package over £100,000 should be considered at full council.
“The new clauses in this policy deliberately go against government guidance.”
The newly worded document was voted through without amendment with all 45 attending Labour in support and the 12-strong Conservative group against.