Green councillors have said they are concerned and frustrated that Bristol's Labour Mayor refused to answer questions at yesterday's Full Council meeting about the controversial pay-off of the Council's ex-chief executive. A report into the severance package found that there was a lack of transparency over the £196,000 pay-off provided. The Mayor refused to answer questions from councillors and the public on why the administration chose to pay the full pay-off and why the payment decision did not go to the HR committee unlike other payments to departing senior officers.
Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke, who has been raising her concerns about the situation for many months said:
“We need to know why the Mayor misled the people of Bristol. He told us that he had to make this payment, that it was entirely contractual, but we now know this was not the case. And why was it not brought to the Council’s HR committee as it should have been? Even now there are so many unanswered questions. Despite promises of transparency councillors and the public have only been allowed to see a small part of the report into what actually happened. Why won’t the Mayor give us straight answers?”
At last night’s council meeting, members received the auditor's report into the payments made to the ex-chief executive and learnt that half the money received was a discretionary payment. This contradicts the Mayor's previous assertions that he had to make the payment as it was 'contractual'. The report also criticised the 'lack of transparency' in the process.
Councillor Fi Hance said:
“It beggars belief that the Mayor expects us to believe that someone who left the Council’s employment without working their notice was contractually entitled to nearly 200k severance payment. It’s possible that the lack of Council policy meant it wasn’t illegal, but surely it doesn’t make it right.”
Councillor O'Rourke continued:
"I am saddened that the Mayor chose to spend the whole of the debate hiding behind half-truths and refusing to take responsibility for mistakes made. It was left to other members of his Labour group to do the responsible thing by accepting that mistakes were made and assuring us that lessons would be learnt. It would have been so much more fitting if we had heard these from the Mayor himself. It does not give me faith that the other concerns around HR matters that we have been raising in the Council will be looked into properly."
"I feel that this is an affront to the people of Bristol who want to be told the truth about how tax-payers money has been spent, not half-truths and smoke screens. I am also concerned that we have only been allowed to see a quarter of the report and that at the heart of the report there is a ‘truth vacuum’ because the individuals closely involved in the decision were not interviewed about what happened. "