Anger grows over council director's early pay-off

ANGRY campaigners have criticised moves to fund the early retirement of a council director using more than £360,000 of taxpayers' money.

East Riding Council's Tory cabinet will be asked to approve the payment of 364,205 to the pension fund of director of corporate resources Sue Lockwood – who is in her mid-fifties – at a behind-closed-doors meeting on Tuesday.

Just over a year ago councillors were criticised for allowing senior officers, including Ms Lockwood, to take large backdated pay rises but defended the move, saying they were to "retain and attract staff".

Holderness and Beverley Tory MP Graham Stuart said: "You have to ask whether it is appropriate to be handing out such sums on a

discretionary basis at a time when the Government has driven our public finances into such a state.

"I hope the councillors think long and hard before they distribute public money which is there to be spent on services not to be spent on excessive rewards for senior staff."

A source said: "This money comes out of service budgets, which ultimately means it is coming out of taxpayers' pockets. When they were given the pay rise it was stated that it was to recruit and retain staff. You could argue it does the opposite by offering a pension which they can't afford not to take."

Andrew Allison, of the Hull and East Riding Taxpayers Alliance branch, called the proposed payment "absolutely ridiculous."

Ms Lockwood, who is on a salary of 117,000, is the wife of former council chief executive Darryl Stephenson, whose 36,000 pay rise in 2002 led to a protest march in Beverley.

Councils across the UK had a combined pensions deficit of 53bn in 2008-09.

East Riding Council said retirements were dealt with in accordance with the nationally agreed pension scheme.