Labour council condemned for bonus payments to senior staff while cutting jobs and services

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By a Newsnet reporter

SNP MSP John Wilson has condemned Labour controlled North Lanarkshire Council for paying out £184,000 in bonuses to senior staff at a time when the local authority shed jobs, cut services and froze pay.

Mr Wilson welcomed the Scottish Information Commissioner’s order to publish details of the payments, after the Council attempted to block release of the documents detailing the payments.

Details of the payments were requested by the Sunday Herald last year, but the Council refused to reveal the figures, claiming that releasing the information would breach the privacy of staff members.  The request was then taken to the office of the Scottish Information Commissioner.  

The Information Commissioner rejected the arguments of North Lanarkshire Council, saying:  “There is a general interest in ensuring that public authorities are transparent and accountable in relation to the way they spend public money, and this extends to understanding how much money is paid to senior officers of the council on top of their salary.”

According to the information released by the Commissioner’s decision, 29 senior council staff were awarded bonus payments totalling over £184,000.  Council chief executive Gavin Whitefield, was given an extra £12,050 in addition to his £136,848 annual salary.  Five executive directors, who each earn an annual salary of £113,250, were given bonus payments of £9,000 each.

The SNP MSP for Central Scotland said:

“The decision to instruct North Lanarkshire Council to release the PRP [Performance Related Pay] awards for senior council officials is another victory for open and transparent government.

“We must ensure local authorities are held accountable – in particular when it comes to how public cash is spent.

“It is deeply disappointing to see £184,000 has been paid out to 29 head of services on top of their salaries, earning upwards of £77,000 a year.

“The fact that these officials continue to receive PRP at a time when ordinary staff salaries are not only being frozen, but they are also facing cuts in their hours or redundancies, is a scandal.

“At a time when many are struggling financially, people living in North Lanarkshire will be understandably angry that those earning huge salaries are receiving bonuses of this kind and the council attempted to cover it up.”