Liberal Democrat councillors are demanding that Brent Council’s Labour Leader Muhammed Butt should reveal the cost of his abrupt decision to get rid of long-serving Chief Executive Gareth Daniel.
Nearly two weeks after the Chief Executive departed, there has still been no official statement to the public or the press about the reasons for the shock move. Councillor Butt would not even make a statement to his fellow councillors at the most recent full council meeting on Monday 10 September.
Alperton councillor Daniel Brown, who is Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group and serves on the council’s finance scrutiny committee, said:
Labour councillors are playing with public money. They are accountable for how it is spent. Liberal Democrats think that residents deserve a full explanation of how much the chief executive’s departure will cost the local taxpayer
We will resist any suggestion that the council should pay ‘hush money’ to buy the former chief executive’s silence.
The Audit Commission has set out clear recommendations for how chief executive severance payments should be dealt with, including review by a cross party committee before a final decision is made and publication of the details of the package within a short period following the payment. We expect the council to follow this advice.
Councillor Brown was an opposition member of Brent Council last time that a new Labour Leader got rid of a Chief Executive at massive public expense. In 1998 Labour forced out the then Chief Executive George Benham with a pay-off of £700,000. Gareth Daniel stepped into Mr Benham’s shoes as the new Chief Executive.
Cllr Brown added:
The council should learn from its mistakes. It would be a disgrace if the taxpayer was to be landed with such a big bill again.
The Audit Commission report, By Mutual Agreement, shows that the average cost of severance payments between January 2007 to September 2009 was 1.8 times the chief executive’s annual basic salary but in some cases it was more than three times the basic salary. The cost of recruiting a new chief executive, the cost of any interim employees and disruption during the vacancy period also needs to be taken into account.