CUMBRIA County Council has announced the early retirement of its Chief Executive Jill Stannard.

Mrs Stannard, 55, will step down next month and is likely to be replaced by an interim CEO.

But South Lakes MP Tim Farron has demanded full transparency over what he calls the 'golden handshake' she is now set to receive.

Mrs Stannard - earning £170,000 per year - had her application for early retirement agreed by the County Council’s Chief Officer Panel.

The authority says all council employees aged 55 years and over who have been employed by the council for more than two years are eligible to apply for early retirement and each application is considered on an individual basis.

But in a stinging attack openly directed at the Tory-Labour led authority, Mr Farron called it a 'shameful announcement'.

He said: "They have chosen to commit hundreds of thousands of tax payers money to funding this pay off, but they can’t find funds to fix Cumbria’s 40,000 potholes."

"While they agree this huge golden handshake, they are increasing the price of meals on wheels to elderly people, and cutting the wages of hard working teaching assistants.”

He also claimed the decision was 'rushed through just days before the election'.

He added: "People across our county will be outraged by this out of touch decision, and rightly so.”

The authority said today (Wednesday) that confidentiality prevents it from disclosing the amount at this stage but it would be made public in summer 2014, as this would be when the annual accounts for 2013-14 are published.

The authority expects to make a further £50 million of savings between April 2014 and 2016.

The authority said her decision to retire follows 'a series of service reviews being commissioned by her to develop options for re-shaping the council'.

These will be considered when the results of the county council elections on May 2.

In a statement today on why the figures would not be made public, the council said: “At this stage the precise financial terms of the chief executive’s departure are private and confidential, and we have a duty to respect personal information surrounding all our employees.

"However, we will be explaining more about the financial savings made from the revised senior management arrangements once new interim arrangements are put in place – and these will reflect the budgetary implications of the chief executive’s early departure.

"Our full-year accounts also publish in full the financial implications of any early retirements of senior officers.”

The authority explained that the authority will have a senior management restructure and, 'in this context, Jill Stannard has considered her own position and has applied for early retirement in the interest of service efficiency."

"The decision to appoint an interim chief executive is one that needs to be made by full council, with the next full council meeting due on 16th May.

"The county council also has in place robust and effective ‘acting up’ arrangements involving other corporate directors to ensure service continuity in the chief executive’s absence."

Meanwhile, politicians of all colours congratulated Mrs Stannard.

Council Leader Eddie Martin said: "Jill has worked tirelessly for the people of Cumbria, and she has made a huge impact on the improvement journey of Cumbria County Council.

"From her very first official day as Chief Executive she oversaw the successful management and recovery from the floods of 2009, always putting communities and residents first.”

Today (Wednesday 24) Councillor Martin responded to Mr Farron's criticism of road repairs by saying that the county council had spent £8.2 million on them in South Lakeland which he said included £750k of extra funding, repaired over 13,000 defects and gritted roads amounting to 93km.

Meanwhile, deputy Leader Stewart Young said: "Jill has provided leadership at a time when the council has faced significant challenges. Her commitment to the organisation has always been apparent with the way she has supported staff through some very difficult times, as we strive to achieve major savings while still protecting frontline services.”

Liberal Democrat leader Ian Stewart added: "I want to thank Jill for her contribution in leading Cumbria through difficult times and I wish her well for her retirement."

In a message to all county council staff, Jill said: “My retirement opens the door for a change in the way that the council is managed at the most senior level, changes which I hope will lead to further savings.

"What always strikes me here in Cumbria is that, no matter what the challenge, our staff always face it head on and finds solutions. This council is a great place to work with truly dedicated and committed staff and, as I prepare to leave, I take this opportunity to once again pay full credit to the people who work here."

Mrs Stannard joined the authority in 2005 as the Corporate Director for Adult Services.

Prior to that she worked for Hampshire County Council as Assistant Director of Social Services.

The county council statement added: "She has over 23 years experience working in adult social care and has a proven track record of delivering service improvements and working successfully with health authorities and the third sector.