Essex County Council redundancies cost authority £8.6m

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Image caption Some 277 Essex County Council employees were made redundant in the year 2017-18

A council spent more than £8.6m on redundancies the year after "shaking up its senior management structure", it has emerged.

Some 277 Essex County Council employees left with exit packages of up to £199,999 in 2017-18, accounts showed.

The figure is more than four times the amount spent in the previous year.

A council spokesman said it had been "necessary to streamline the organisation following staff feedback" and payments were a legal requirement.

The council's accounts showed that 137 of the job losses were compulsory, and 13 employees walked away with deals worth between £100,000 and £199,999.

About £7.7m was spent on the exit packages and a further £900,000 went on "other termination benefits".

In 2016-17, the council made 83 redundancies, costing a total of £1.9m.

Image caption A council spokesman said the redundancies were "necessary to streamline the organisation"

Councillor Mike Mackrory, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at the Conservative-run council, said he was "rather surprised" by the figures and would be meeting with the finance team to discuss them.

"It appears some people have done extraordinarily well out of this," he said.

"I knew there would be short-terms costs, but we were told there would be longer-term savings."

Chris Jenkinson, regional secretary of the Unison union, said the figures were "another stark reminder of the cost of austerity policies being passed on from Westminster".

He added: "People in Essex want fully-staffed libraries, decent social care, quality schools and well-run waste services.

"Instead, the council has spent millions shaking up its senior management structure and getting rid of hundreds of people supposed to provide those services."

'Future challenges'

A spokesman for Essex County Council stressed that the figures and redundancies "need to be seen in context".

"This was necessary to streamline the organisation, following feedback from staff and partners, and how Essex County Council needs to be structured in order to meet future challenges," he said.

"The exit payments are in the main redundancy and pension strain payments that we are legally required to make."

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