MORE than half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money was allocated on pay-offs for ex-Herefordshire Council employees over the last two years, the latest figures reveal.

The figures, which form part of the council’s latest statement of accounts, relate to compulsory and other redundancies that totalled £547,500 for the last two financial years.

The exit packages cost a total £326,200 in 2017/18 and £221,300 last year.

The vast majority were agreed departures and total 53, while there was a combined total of 16 compulsory redundancies during both years.

Council chiefs signed off nine exit packages that cost between £20,001 and £40,000 during those two years, while 60 pay-outs were made of values up to £20,000.

Tupsley ward councillor Jim Kenyon said elected representatives are kept in the dark over these payouts. He asked: “Why is this public money being spent?”

“Is it hush money? Is it part of clauses in their contracts?

“Is it something that is going to go on year on year?

“It’s a lot of taxpayers’ money and councillors should be told about the ins and outs of these payments.

“At the very least councillors should be briefed confidentially on the information and if something is not right the wider public should be told.”

A Herefordshire Council spokesperson said the figures relate to both county council employees and school workers.

“Councils and schools are under increasing financial pressures and ongoing cost reductions are essential,” she said.

“Where redundancies are unavoidable, we are legally and contractually required to pay compensation to the staff affected in the same way as other organisations. The council’s redundancy payments are calculated by taking into account the employee’s age, length of service and salary.

“The figures in Herefordshire Council’s Statement of Accounts 2018/19 include both council and school employees.”

The statement of accounts also showed the top earners at the local authority.

Chief executive Alistair Neill tops the list with a £149,000 annual salary (just £400 a year less than the Prime Minister) and £24,000 worth of yearly pension contributions. He is followed by children and families director Chris Baird on £123,000 with £19,000 in pension contributions.