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SWANSEA Council has slashed its exit package bill for departing staff, despite a sharp rise in compulsory redundancies.

During the 2018-19 financial year it spent £3.7 million on 184 early retirement and redundancy costs, 40 of which were compulsory redundancies.

The previous year it spent £7.4 million on costs for 217 departing staff, only four of which were compulsory redundancies.

Council chiefs try to minimise compulsory redundancies but have faced year after year of budget shortfalls while trying to manage rising demand for some services like adult social care.

A council spokesman said early retirement and voluntary redundancy was “an extremely cost-effective way” to reduce the pay bill.

The higher costs in 2017-18 were partly due to an enhanced offer of up to 45 weeks’ salary for departing staff. The offer in 2018-19 was up to 30 weeks’ salary.

A council spokesman said: “In all cases a case had to be made to demonstrate that the early retirement and voluntary redundancy departures make financial sense to the council and that the cost is recouped as quickly as possible.

“All the payments are in line with statutory entitlements based on years of service and access to the pensions individuals have contributed to during their working lives.”

The latest figures are contained in the council’s draft statement of accounts for 2018-19.

The draft accounts also show a rise in income from council-owned car parks from £4.4 million in 2017-18 to £4.9 million in 2018-19.

Rental income from investment property grew by a similar proportion to £4.7 million.

The council spent £796 million on day-to-day services like education in 2018-19, which was financed by a Welsh Government grant (£239 million), council tax (£115 million), a distribution of business rates (£79 million) and other income such as rents, fees and charges (£361 million).

It faced a £28.9 million budget deficit, but only ended the financial year £883,000 in the red.

Meanwhile, capital spending on things like roads and school upgrades was nearly £8 million less than planned.

The budget for the current financial year has factored in a £24.5 million shortfall, requiring more savings measures and another rise in council tax.

When the budget was set a full council meeting earlier this year, council leader Rob Stewart said the authority was being funded below 2008 levels, while chief finance officer Ben Smith said councillors were in “an utterly unenviable position”.

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