Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has spent nearly £800,000 of taxpayers’ money on ‘golden handshake’ pay-outs to bureaucrats and retiring officers in the last five years. According to the Manchester Evening News, this includes £200,000 handed to their former head of training and development, Cathy Butterworth.
Ms Butterworth left GMP in 2011 as they embarked on cost cutting measures forced by the coalition government. She had previously earned £87,000 a year, but was given the payoff shortly before she got a new job at Oldham Council.
This means that taxpayers in Oldham, in Greater Manchester, paid a percent of her settlement at GMP – only to then pay her again to work for their local authority. Leaving her with a significant windfall, and leaving some of the poorest taxpayers in the country with a large bill.
Another GMP staffer Christine Brereton was given a £105,000 settlement despite her annual earnings being just £36,000 a year. The former head of human resources also went on to work at Oldham Council but is now head of HR Strategy at Lancaster University.
GMP has defended the total bill saying that in most cases staff left the force because of ill-health. They entered into a total of 58 compromise agreements with officers and civilian workers between February 2009 and March 2014, the total bill was £795,516.40.
Assistant Chief Officer at Greater Manchester Police, Lynne Potts, said: “The figure quoted reflects all payments made to individuals who have left the Force under compromise agreements. The majority of these agreements relate to officers who unfortunately have had to retire from the service due to ill health. A small number of agreements relate to senior police staff who were made redundant from the Force as a consequence of the need to make savings.”
Whilst the payments made by GMP are by no means the highest in the public sector they are likely to anger taxpayers, sick of hearing about the public sector payoff bonanza that has taken place in recent years.
The Daily Mail reported that these sorts of agreements cost taxpayers £262m in just six years. The government had already pledged a crackdown before these figures were released, with Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles claiming the money is used to gag whistleblowers.
At the time Mr Pickles said of the £262m figure: “This is an outrage. It is not a sensible use of public money to ensure that a council doesn’t feel a degree of embarrassment. It is the same as trying to muffle whistleblowers.”
These agreements bind both sides into a settlement, that often includes the former employee not suing and keeping quiet whilst the employer gives them a more generous payoff than they would get through the courts. Whilst it is a wholly legitimate strategy in some circumstances there are questions about whether it should ever take place in the public sector.