REVEALED: How much former Sunderland City Council chief executive got as 'golden handshake'

Former Sunderland City Council chief executive Dave Smith.
Former Sunderland City Council chief executive Dave Smith.
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Former Sunderland City Council chief executive Dave Smith received a £185,470 'golden handshake', accounts have revealed.

The payment - or compensation for loss of office - form part of a total remuneration package of £625,570, which also included his £108,686 annual salary and £331,414 in pension contributions.

After months of calls for transparency, the figures have been published as part of the annual statement of accounts, presented to the Audit and Governance Committee.

Dr Smith left the authority just weeks after a damning Ofsted report into children's social services failings.

The Conservative group on the council had long campaigned for the details to be made public, with opposition leader Coun Peter Wood asking that the matter go to full council, where all members could vote on the pay-off and hear about the reasons for it.

His deputy, Coun Michael Dixon, also asked council leader Paul Watson, to reveal the full amount at the January meeting of the full council. However, this request was also declined, despite government guidance, which states that pay-offs over £95,000 should be approved by full council.

Conservative Coun Robert Oliver said: “The £185,470 pay-off given to former chief executive, Dave Smith, who left the council within a month of a damning report into the state of Children’s Services, will deeply concern many people in the city.

"These golden handshakes should be modest and done in the open, not behind closed doors, as it is taxpayers’ money that is being handed out and it was wrong for the leader of the council to hide it from the public in this way.

"It is a huge amount, far greater than the average person in the city will ever see, and is still shrouded in mystery as the circumstances behind Mr Smith’s departure have still not been revealed.

"Fortunately, new laws are to be introduced which will force all such payments to be made public to stop excessive payments to council officers and ensure no one can be secretly rewarded for failure.”

Liberal Democrat campaigner for Pennywell and South Hylton Stephen O’Brien said: “At a time when Sunderland council is slashing basic services like street cleaning and repairing potholes, it is shocking that they deem it fit to give over £185,000 to the former Chief Executive who resigned from the role.

“Given that he resigned, it makes you wonder why he received a taxpayer-funded pay-off at all."

A spokesman for Sunderland City Council said: "Figures in the Statement of Accounts are in line with the terms and conditions for senior officers who have now left the council, including former chief executive Dr Dave Smith.

"They include payments to the Pension Fund to reflect payments to individuals in the future.

"Significant restructuring at a senior level is continuing in line with the general reduction in the council’s workforce.

"This is in accordance with the council’s workforce planning scheme which has been in place since May 2013 and is approved each year by the council’s Human Resources Committee.

"During 2015/2016 the workforce planning scheme has allowed more than £6m of on-going annual savings to be delivered.

"Over the last six years the council has reduced the size of its non-school workforce from 8,000 to 4,000 staff. This is part of delivering more than £200m of savings because of government funding cuts and spending pressures.

"At this stage we anticipate we need to deliver a further £100m of savings by 2019/20 which will involve further downsizing of the workforce, including the on-going senior management restructure.

"Until recently the council’s approach to downsizing its workforce has been built around reductions by voluntary means and that continues to be the case wherever possible."