MORE than a fifth of Sunderland City Council workers have applied for a year’s salary payout to leave the authority, it has been revealed.
As reported in the Echo, workers were told they could apply for the pay-offs as it attempts to make £100million in savings over the next three years.
About 1,400 members of staff applied to get packages to leave their posts. It is understand that of those, between 600 and 700 will be allowed to leave.
The council decided to offer the opportunity after falling £5million short of their savings target for this year.
About 6,880 staff, excluding schools, were given the chance to go for the money, meaning they could leave their jobs with a year’s salary. The payment is tax free up to £30,000.
As the council tried to avoid making people redundant during the economic downturn, bosses created the Switch (Staff Working in Transition and Change) team, which is staffed by about 350 people.
Conservative leader on Sunderland City Council, Councillor Robert Oliver, said today: “I think this really calls into question how effective the Switch team has been, as it has a budget of about £8million.
“I think people will be asking why didn’t the council just go for this severance pay in the first place.
“I think it is splitting hairs to not call it redundancy.”
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It will soon be decided who has been successful in their applications.
City council leader Paul Watson said: “In the light of ever decreasing budgets and no longer being able to resource the City Council’s current staffing levels, we introduced this voluntary severance offer.
“There were more than 1,000 expressions of interest.
“A team of officers is looking at those expressions of interest and no final figures on the severance offer are currently available.
“In the last three years the council has achieved £100million in savings and, as already stated, the council’s priorities remain with safeguarding and improving public services, continuing to look after the vulnerable, and attracting investment and promoting job creation.”
Helen Coomer, Unison organiser for Sunderland, said of the severance packages: “It isn’t ideal and obviously this is going to be a big reduction in the workforce.
“We also have some concerns about the people who will be left and what effect it will have on frontline services in Sunderland.
“But we would rather the cost savings were made this way than through forced redundancies.”
Applicants are expected find out in the coming weeks whether or not they will get the payouts and could leave before the end of next month.