£32,000 for council’s chief to leave his post without working notice

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THE former chief executive of a Yorkshire council was paid more than £32,000 to leave with immediate effect rather than work out his notice.

Phil Coppard, who had worked for 36 years at Barnsley Council, is believed to have been forced from his post following a dispute with the ruling Labour group about how the authority should make £24m of cuts.

The Yorkshire Post has learned that Mr Coppard was given three months salary worth £32,848 when he left in January, despite offering to work his notice period. It is also understood he will have his pension paid until March 2013.

Phil Birkinshaw, chair of the Barnsley Independent Group of councillors, said the circumstances around the acrimonious end to Mr Coppard’s 12-year career as chief officer remain unclear.

“First we were told he was retiring, and therefore they felt they had to get someone in quickly – but now Mr Coppard’s said he wasn’t planning to retire,” he said. “We still do not know why he was asked to go, and they still have not appointed a new chief executive.”

Mr Coppard has claimed Labour leader Stephen Houghton told him he no longer had the backing of the ruling group and they agreed he would work a three-month notice period, but this agreement was then changed without explanation and he was offered three months salary in lieu of notice in return for leaving immediately.

The council has made more than £20m of savings and is having to make another £24m of cuts by 2015. Steve Pick, the director of finance, is acting chief executive until a full-time replacement is appointed.

A spokesman for the council said: “Phil Coppard left by mutual consent at a time convenient for both himself and the council.”