Minister slams council for lack of transparency

Bexhill Town Hall the headquarters of Rother District Council
Bexhill Town Hall the headquarters of Rother District Council

A Government minister has criticised Rother District Council for a lack of transparentcy over redundancy payments to senior managers.

The criticisms were made by MP Kris Hopkins, the Minister for Local Government, in a letter to the district council’s leader Carl Maynard.

He questioned the way the council published redundancy payments to the local authority’s former chief executive Derek Stevens and two other “heads of service”.

However the district council has insisted the information published was in line with data protection laws and the accounts, which included the information, signed off by an independent auditor.

In the letter, which Mr Hopkins has made public, he said: “We expect councils to be open and transparent about how they use taxpayers’ money and how they make decisions. By doing so, they give local people the information they need to hold their elected leaders to account... I understand that this was not the approach that your council took in its accounts for 2013-14.

“Instead, redundancy payments made to your ex-chief executive and two heads of service are included only within a table collating exit payments by cost band and are not accounted for separately. We do not believe that this approach is line with the requirements of the regulations.

“Importantly, the Council’s current approach would not enable local taxpayers to easily identify the level of payments made to departing senior staff.”

In response to the Minister’s criticisms a Rother District Council spokesman told the Observer: “We consider that we have made full disclosure of redundancy payments, but we will give due consideration to the points raised in Mr Hopkins’ letter.”

In a letter to Mr Hopkins the council stated it did “... not publish separately the cost of the Chief Executive’s and two senior managers’ redundancy packages in order that we do not breach data protection principles.”