Member of public prevented from asking pay off questions about top execs at Cumbria County Council (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Member of public prevented from asking pay off questions about top execs at Cumbria County Council
AN anti-council tax campaigner says he was barred from speaking at a major budget meeting of Cumbria County Council.
Lorry driver Steve Atkinson, of Pennington, planned to directly ask the cash-strapped authority how much it had paid out to two bosses who departed last year.
Mr Atkinson attended the council's budget setting meeting at the County Hall in Kendal, but was not permitted to speak and sat in the public gallery for the duration of the meeting.
He has spent the last nine months campaigning against the authority’s refusal to reveal the pay and pension deal paid to former Chief Executive Jill Stannard, and more recently its Chief Fire Officer Dominic Harrison, who stood down in October.
Mr Atkinson said: “My request to enter the council chamber under its public participation scheme was wholly relevant to the council, and wholly relevant to every single constituent in this county.
“The reason I was barred is wholly obvious to me. They remain terrified regarding the issue of payoffs being again brought out into the open.”
The meeting saw the Labour-Lib Dem run authority agree over £24 million in cuts to services like subsidised rural buses, transport help for college students as well as closing a fire station in Dalton-in-Furness.
Mr Atkinson believes that high-ranking officer pay remains the council’s "first priority" and services come secondary.
Mrs Stannard sparked a ‘golden handshake’ row last May after taking early retirement at the age of 55, from her £170,000-a-year role.
In a statement addressing Mr Atkinson's claims, the authority said it encouraged the public to take part in its meetings.
“This must always be balanced, however, with the need to avoid comments regarding the circumstances of an individual or a member of staff, and this is explained in the council’s public participation scheme," said a council spokesman.
“The meeting followed an extensive public consultation, and saw more than six hours of debate and several public contributions.
“The biggest single amount of savings in the new financial year will come from freeing up more management and administrative savings from across the council, as it becomes a smaller organisation.
“Cumbria County Council is open and transparent on the remuneration of its senior officers and information on salaries is readily available on our website.
“Remuneration and redundancy payments for officers leaving the council is always included in the organisation’s audited annual accounts.
"The audited accounts for 2013/14 will be verified and published in the summer of 2014.”
The authority has pointe dout over 1500 people took part in its formal consultation on the budget with an additional several hundred letters, emails and petitions also submitted.
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