A COUNCIL faced with making tens of millions of pounds of savings paid one man over £500,000 for 20 months’ work, it has emerged.
Northumberland County Council, which is to be forced to trim around £60m from its spending over the next three years, paid £501,919 to its former executive director of place Richard Robson from the post’s creation in April 2009 to his departure at the end of November 2010.
Mr Robson last night insisted the figure covered two years’ salary and a pay-off, and that his wage was comparable with money paid to other high-ranking local government bosses around the country.
Yet one county councillor said he would “love to hear anybody justify the figure to the ordinary man in the street,” claiming it is “effectively what many ordinary people will make in a lifetime”.
Another critic branded the payment “immoral”.
The authority’s accounts show that Mr Robson, a former chief executive of Tynedale Council, was paid a salary of £135,746 from the council’s creation to the end of the financial year 2009/10.
He also received benefits in kind that financial year of £4,101 – the authority’s contribution to his lease car, and a pension contribution of £24,570, giving a total of £164,417.
The council’s figures for 2010/11 show Mr Robson received salary of £126,782, benefits in kind of £3,608 – again the lease car money – and a pension contribution of £16,689.
The officer left the council on November 30, 2010, and was given a pay off of £190,423, meaning he was paid a total of £337,502 that financial year.
Mr Robson, who now works as development director with Newcastle-based property group Lugano, last night told The Journal the figure included two full years’ salary and the pay-off.
He also said his salary was comparable to that given to other high-ranking council officials around the country.
Mr Robson insisted his departure had been part of a restructure which allowed the council to employ fewer staff, in turn reducing its costs.
He added: “I delivered in the region of £28m of savings in my time at the authority.
“I also contributed to the cost of my lease car and returned it when I left the council.”
Yet Dougie Watkin, Liberal Democrat member for Norham and Islandshires, said: “I would love to hear anybody justify this to the ordinary man in the street.
“I am sure it is what he has to get, however for somebody to be in post for 20 months and then walk away with what is effectively what many ordinary people will make in a lifetime, I would love to hear somebody attempt to justify it.”
Kevin Little, a self-employed contractor from Haltwhistle, said of the overall figure: “I just think that is absolutely appalling.
“I do not know how someone is worth half a million quid for 20 months’ work.
“It is not illegal, (but) it is immoral.”
A council spokeswoman said: “We are unable to comment on individual employees past or present.”