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REVEALED: Aberdeen City Council spent millions to pay off 555 staff in just three years

Marischal College
Marischal College

Aberdeen City Council has spent millions of pounds to pay off 555 workers in just the last three years, it can be revealed.

Figures released to The P&J show the local authority has agreed severance, redundancy and early retirement packages with more staff than any other council in Scotland during the period.

A total bill of more than £7.5 million was racked up to pave the way for the departure of 204 employees in 2017/18, a further 132 workers in 2018/19, and another 219 staff members last year.

Neighbouring Aberdeenshire Council spent £1.166m on 29 packages for employees in the same three-year period, most of which was incurred last year.

Across Scotland, the data shows that almost £88m has been forked out to end the contracts of 3,630 staff in the last three years, rising to £190m for 7,273 workers for the last five years.

A leading trade union said council workers were at “breaking point” after years of cuts.

The only councils to come close to the 555 packages agreed at Aberdeen City were North Lanarkshire, which signed off 475 of the agreements, and Fife, where there were 415 in the period.

However, Edinburgh City Council previously topped the charts, rubber-stamping 968 pay offs in 2015/16 and 2016/17 alone.

Fife Council spent the most on the pay offs in the last three years, with a total bill of £17.6m, followed by North Lanarkshire’s £12.1m, a total of £9m at Edinburgh City and then Aberdeen City’s £7.5m.

Argyll and Bute had the sixth highest spend, at just more than £5m, while Moray Council paid just more than £1m, Shetland shelled out £542,000, at Highland it was £216,000, at Orkney it was £190,000, and Western Isles Council spent £39,000.

Aberdeen City Council had just more than 7,100 full time equivalent workers in 2017.

The total number of redundancies in Scotland has also fallen each year, from 1,891 in 2015/16 to 1,349 in 2018/19.

Wendy Dunsmore, regional officer for the Unite trade union, said the reduction was down to council services being “cut to the bone under repeated years of austerity measures”.

She said: “There are no more savings through voluntary severance schemes to be had which is exactly why local authorities began to accelerate the attacks even before Covid-19 on the terms and conditions of Unite members from refuse collection to forcing low paid health and social care workers to pay for registration fees.

“Unite will be doing everything possible to defend the essential services that local authorities provide as well as any compulsory redundancy moves and more voluntary service schemes, which will only add further pressure on to the workforce already at breaking point.”

Mike Rumbles, north-east Liberal Democrat MSP, said centralisation and ring-fencing had put councils “in a bind”.

“The impact of that can be seen in our schools and on our roads and in critical staffing arrangements,” he said.

“So many council-run services in the north-east are crying out for further resources.”

An Aberdeen City Council spokesman said: “Direct comparisons between different local authorities do not account for differences in circumstances, structures and services provided.

“The financial pressures facing Aberdeen City Council have been well documented as has our task of balancing the need to make savings with the requirement to deliver high quality services.

“In doing so, the council has signalled its commitment to no compulsory redundancies and has instead consistently offered employees the opportunity to be considered for voluntary severance or early retirement should that fit in with the individual’s plans”

Meanwhile, an Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said its recent voluntary redundancies had led to ongoing savings of more than £2m.

“As the council continues to modernise and reform its services to ensure we can meet the needs of our communities, in terms of staffing we explore every alternative to avoid compulsory redundancies such as reviewing temporary contracts, reducing overtime working and additional hours and reducing the use of agency workers as part of any service restructuring exercise,” he added.

 

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