Council top earners revealed as York boss who took early retirement amid £400,000 payout controversy was one of region's highest paid

The former chief executive of York Council, who took early retirement last year amid a payout controversy, commandeered one of the highest salary packages of any official in the  region, new figures have revealed.

Mary Weastell, former chief executive of York council was awarded a £400,000 exit package, which independent auditors last month said was not handled correctly by the council. Pictured: York city centre
Mary Weastell, former chief executive of York council was awarded a £400,000 exit package, which independent auditors last month said was not handled correctly by the council. Pictured: York city centre

Mary Weastell was awarded a £400,000 exit package, which independent auditors last month said was not handled correctly by the council.

Figures from The Taxpayers’ Alliance have shown Ms Weastell’s remuneration package was £222,942 – one of the highest in Yorkshire and the Humber of any council employee.

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She was paid £143,940 as salary, and had a pension package worth £29,285.

A spokesperson for the city council said the remaining £49,717 was linked to her exit package agreement including payments in lieu of notice and outstanding holiday pay.

Debbie Mitchell, chief finance officer at York Council said: “Our senior officer salaries reflect the responsibilities of running a large and complex organisation which provides a wide range of crucial services for over 205,000 people, and as an open Council, we publish these salaries and our pay policy annually.

“Like every salary at the council, we follow nationally negotiated rates to attract the right skills, knowledge and experience to deliver quality services to the residents and businesses of York.

“Furthermore, since the data in the Taxpayer Alliance report was compiled, City of York Council has undertaken an organisational restructure with the aim of saving taxpayer money. As a result of reviewing our senior management structure, we have so far generated annual recurring savings of £200,000.”

Five further employees of the city council commandeered remuneration packages of over £100,000 in the financial year 2019/20 according to the data, including its deputy chief executive and director of public health.

Mazars, who audited Ms Weastell’s departure package, said councillors did not have all the information needed to make a decision and safeguards to stop conflicts of interest were not in place. An investigation is ongoing.

Leeds Council had the highest number of high-paid staff in any local authority in Yorkshire, with 18 employees taking home at least £100,000 in pay and pension packages.

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, had a base salary of £183,984 according to the figures.

Leeds Council was approached for comment by The Yorkshire Post.

The chief executive of Bradford City Council, Kersten England, had the highest salary of any official in Yorkshire according to the figures, with a £ 189,419 base salary.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers facing huge and hated council tax rises want to know they are getting value for money from their local authority leadership.

“At the onset of the coronavirus crisis, thousands of town hall officials were taking home huge sums.

“While councils were plunged into tackling the pandemic, many staff will have more than earned their keep, but households have nevertheless struggled with enormous and unpopular council tax rises.”

York Council announced in February that council tax would rise by 4.99 per cent this financial year and in Leeds, a 1.99 per cent increase has been levied on residents along with a three per cent social care precept.