Council redundancy costs nearly double in a year
Cash-strapped Welsh councils have spent nearly twice as much on making staff redundant as they did last year, BBC Wales has learned.
The cost of pay-offs jumped from £17.2m in 2012-13 to nearly £31m in 2013-14.
Council leaders defended redundancies for delivering short-term savings and longer-term efficiencies by cutting the annual pay bill.
They also claimed the pay-offs were less generous than other parts of the public sector such as the NHS.
The figures reveal big variations in the redundancy bills of different councils.
- Cardiff council - the largest - spent the most with £16.5m in the three years to April
- Blaenau Gwent - one of the smallest - was the second highest spender at just over £7m
- Neighbouring Caerphilly spent just £170,000 over the same period
Councils have the discretion to set their own terms and conditions governing redundancy payments.
Blaenau Gwent says anyone taking voluntary redundancy has been entitled to a fortnight's pay for every year they have worked.
The scheme has been changed this year so that staff are only entitled to one week's pay if they are able to claim their pension.
There are no definitive figures available on how many people have taken redundancy payments across all councils.
But BBC Wales has received figures from half of the 22 councils and they say their headcount has reduced by around 1,500 over the course of the last financial year.
The Welsh Local Government Association, which represents councils, said around 10,000 jobs had been lost since October 2009 and another 15,000 - a tenth of all local authority workers - could go if discussions over council mergers went ahead.
It said the pay-offs were necessary to help meet a budget shortfall of almost £900m by 2018 as councils "bear the brunt of austerity".
"Redundancies continue to play a vital role in helping councils to deliver short term cost savings and also longer term efficiencies," a spokesperson said.
The Welsh government said it was up to individual local authorities to determine their own approach to redundancies based on the profile of their workforces and future needs.