Accounts show that a director at Wellingborough Council who took early retirement received a redundancy payment of more than £85,000.
Former director of resources Bridget Gamble, who left the council last November, walked away with a sum of £86,560 after councillors voted in July last year to approve the restructure of the council’s senior officer team to make way for a new section 151 officer, or chief finance officer.
The council’s managing director Liz Elliott had performed this role since the previous management shake-up in 2017 which saw former chief executive John Campbell leave the council, but in February last year the MD restructured her senior management again, removing the 151 responsibility from herself and giving it to assistant director Samantha Knowles.
Five months later, in July 2018, the system was restructured again after staff changes led to the managing director deciding to add the section 151 officer responsibility to role of director of resources. The demands of the unitary transition was given as the reason why she could not perform this role herself.
Because Bridget Gamble did not have the qualifications for this new aspect of the job it was decided to give her early retirement and the large redundancy payment.
The amount was discussed in private and has been made public in the 2018/19 statement of accounts.
The authority took on a new 151 officer, Shaun Darcy, in August last year and is paying him a salary of £77,500 plus a £4,000 additional payment for the 151 role.
The money paid to Bridget Gamble is a significant sum for the council, which has been taking money out of its reserves for a number of years.
In 2018/19 it budgeted to take £456,000 from reserves to balance its books but in the end did not need to do so. This year it plans to use £729,000 to plug the gap. Internal auditors have criticised the council for its financial management, giving it a limited assurance and saying it needs to provide accurate forecasts and take urgent action to stop relying on reserves.
Labour councillor Tim Maguire says he was not aware that such a large sum was being paid.
He said: “It don’t think we can afford that. It is a lot of money to pay someone to go.”
The Local Democracy Reporting service asked the council to justify the payment but the council declined to make a statement and instead pointed to council reports.
The report in July last year which proposed Bridget Gambles early retirement said: “Since the creation of the existing management team in two stages in 2017, proposals have been published in relation to the future of local government in Northamptonshire. Inevitably this has divided the focus of the council in two directions – needing to consider both immediate priorities and also preparations for the future. The focus of the management team is therefore also affected, and has resulted in some changes to the team which require member consideration.”
It continued: “The existing director (Mrs Gamble) would not be eligible to be considered for the post because she does not hold the necessary qualification, and has no objection to retiring earlier on the grounds of the effective exercise of the council’s functions.”
Bridget Gamble, who earned a salary of £72,000, had worked her way up from a clerical assistant when she joined the council in 1979, to one of the senior three officers. She was also returning officer – responsible for overseeing elections.