THE head of Cumbria County Council retired on a £411,000 benefits package, the authority has today confirmed - 14 months after she left her post.
Former chief executive Jill Stannard stepped down from the £170,000-a-year job last May aged 55 after eight years in the role.
But it provoked a political storm about 'golden goodbyes' for the cash-strapped authority which needs to save £70 million, with Lakes MP Tim Farron calling the decision 'shameful'.
MORE TOP STORIES:
- Twelve-year-old girl missing from Burneside area
- Kendal Leisure Centre launches scheme working with local artists
- NOSTALGIA: Where is this back street?
- BOOK REVIEW: Don't Come Crying Home by William Fell-Holden, £9.99
The £411,000 pay out includes an £87,000 lump sum, her salary for the part of the year she worked and a one-off £297k top-up to her pension pot.
Now it has emerged that the sum, along with the salary, pension and redundancy paid to three other top executives who left the authority in the last year, amounts to a total of £920,310 being paid to all four.
The council has spent the last year declining public calls for Mrs Stannard's pay-off to be revealed.
However, it has today confirmed the sum following the publication online of its annual accounts for 2013-14.
The cash paid to Mrs Stannard, who had a property in Cumbria at the time of her departure, was agreed by a special panel of councillors and is understood to involve a lump sum and pension payments.
Steve Atkinson, of Loppergarth, represents the Is It Fair group in Cumbria, which campaigns against the council tax and who has spent the last year blitzing the authority with emails and Freedom of Information requests.
Mr Atkinson said this morning: "It's an absolute disgrace. A betrayal of the public, it really is. People are forced to pay their Council Tax and this is what happens to it.
"Nobody is worth that sort of money - many capable people would do it for half that and even less. Let's not forget that this wouldn't have been possible if it hadn't been voted for by councillors - this was a democratic decision."
Asked whether the responsibility of the job entitled Mrs Stannard to the sum, Mr Atkinson said: "There are many people in private industry that are very capable CEO's that don't get paid anywhere near that and if they don't do their job they're out or their staff lose their jobs.
"Chief executives of councils can sit there and literally watch the money pouring through the door regardless of how they run it."
Mr Atkinson has also been demanding to know what the council paid to Angela Harwood, its former head of Legal Services; Dominic Harrison, its former fire chief; and to Julia Morrison, the recently-departed director of its troubled Childrens Services, which was found by Ofsted to be ‘inadequate' in June 2013.
Ms Morrison, who earned £125,000-a-year, was on sick leave for four months and left the authority this March to ‘pursue interests outside of the county’, said the authority.
The accounts show that Mrs Harwood was on £50,019-a-year but the cost of her salary, pension and redundancy payment totalled £100,444; Mr Harrison’s salary was £93,937-a-year but cost the council £180,357 to leave; and Ms Morrison was on a £125,000-a-year salary, but it cost the council £228,509 for her to go.
Last year, then Tory council leader Eddie Martin paid tribute to Mrs Stannard's contribution to the authority, saying she had 'worked tirelessly for the people of Cumbria' and had made a 'huge impact on the improvement journey of Cumbria County Council'.
In the last three years, more than 900 council staff have taken or been made redundant and a further 600 posts will go before March 2015 as the authority battles with a reduction in Government funding.
A council statement issued today said: "As we have seen in other major public sector reorganisations, reducing the number of people who work for organisations is never cost-free.
“With respect to local government, these costs are an inevitable consequence of the government’s decision to cut council funding as part of its efforts to balance the nation’s books, and the speed of change needed for the council to reduce its long-term management costs.
“For example, over the last three years, the number of directors and assistant directors at the council has been cut by 40 per cent and the council’s overall workforce has shrunk by a quarter.
“The council has nonetheless planned as prudently as possible for the scale of change that it is being asked to make.
"As part of this process the council has previously set aside dedicated resources to meet the cost of restructuring - much of which is related to pension costs or governed by related legislation. It is from these dedicated resources that that these costs are met.
“These senior management reductions are part of a planned approach which, over the last twelve months alone, has seen the number of corporate directors reduced from five to four, and assistant directors cut from 18 to 16.
"This follows reductions made in previous years and is now being applied to the next tier of management at the council.
“As a result of the senior officer restructuring that these changes are part of, the council will achieve a permanent annual saving of £584,000. There has also been an eight per cent reduction in the number of staff receiving salaries over £50,000 or during 2013/14.
“The full statement of accounts confirm that the council’s total salary costs for all staff have reduced from £357 million in 2012/13 to £355 million in 2013/14.
“The council will continue to change as it becomes an inevitably smaller organisation in the years ahead.”
Current county council chief, Diane Wood, took a £30,000 pay cut to take the job.