Campaigner's year-long crusade for Cumbria County Council to reveal director pay offs draws blank

Despite retiring 12 months ago, questions remain over how much Jill Stannard was paid, says Steve Atkinson

Despite retiring 12 months ago, questions remain over how much Jill Stannard was paid, says Steve Atkinson

First published in News
Last updated
The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A COUNCIL tax payer on a year long crusade to find out how much public money Cumbria County Council has spent on director pay offs is refusing to give up despite a set-back.

Steve Atkinson, 58 of Loppergarth, wants the cash-strapped authority to reveal what it paid to former £170,000-a-year chief executive Jill Stannard, who retired aged 55 a year ago amid reported claims of a £400,000 ‘golden goodbye’.

More recently, he has also demanded the council tell the public what it 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' last June.

Mrs Morrison, who earned £125,000-a-year, was on sick leave for four months and left the authority in March to ‘pursue interests outside of the county’.

Officials praised her for her three years of dedicated service.

After being told by the council that the details will be published in its 2013-14 accounts later this year, Mr Atkinson took his case to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) which rules on Freedom Of Information complaints.

But the Cheshire-based watchdog has told him the council was within its legal rights to withold the information until such time as it is ready to publish in its annual report, expected in July.

The Commissioner’s office said in a four-page response: “The council explained that it is not reasonable to release information in advance of its planned timetable, and there is a strong argument in favour of allowing everyone to view this information at the same time.

“It added that if it were to release this information as requested on varying occasions, this could result in partial information being released over a protracted period leading to confusion and inaccuracy.”

Mr Atkinson described the outcome as ‘insulting, wholly and deliberately undemocratic’.

He now plans to appeal and pursue the matter with Local Government MP Eric Pickles who in the past has criticised councils for secrecy over pay.

Mr Atkinson, a lorry driver, represents the Is It Fair group, which opposes council tax.
He said: “I am not at all happy with this. The ICO are, it appears, happy to allow Cumbria County Council to use cop outs.”

"This is our money - public money and we are entitled to know. Some councils give this information out just for the asking - and that’s county councils as well."

A spokesman for the authority, run by Labour and the Lib Dems since May 2013 after formerly being controlled by a Tory-Labour coalition, has said the information would be contained within its annual report in July.

A spokesman said when a member of staff leaves the council it is in line with polices and procedures and not to comment on individual cases.

When Mr Harrison stood down last October, the authority said it was brought about by a restructure designed to save half-a-million pounds.

In the last three years, 88 council staff have been made redundant and and 817 have taken voluntary redundancy.

A further 600 posts are to go this year after the council warned it needs to save £24 million on the back of government cuts.

 

 

Comments (2)

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4:08pm Tue 13 May 14

SteveISITFAIR says...

Evasion, obfuscation, lies and deceit !
Evasion, obfuscation, lies and deceit ! SteveISITFAIR
  • Score: 0

6:17am Wed 14 May 14

searcher21c says...

The books are closed for the year. The figures won't change and those responsible for them already know them. We can wait a couple of months to find out what they are hiding from us. Must be bad if it's taking them three months to come up with the spin. We can all bear that in mind for the future.
The books are closed for the year. The figures won't change and those responsible for them already know them. We can wait a couple of months to find out what they are hiding from us. Must be bad if it's taking them three months to come up with the spin. We can all bear that in mind for the future. searcher21c
  • Score: -1

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