Bungling council chief pockets “obscene” £500,000 pay-off

August 17, 2012 6:17 PM

Local taxpayers in South Lanarkshire have been lumbered with a bill for half a million pounds after the council’s finance chief walked away from her position with a lucrative, golden goodbye.

Linda Hardie was forced out of her Finance Director job into early retirement at 50 after her department was swindled out of £100,000 in an unsophisticated scam, shortly before a £38m budget error emerged.

Hardie, who was earning £127,000 a year, was placed on full-salary gardening leave for six months after the “arithmetical errors” surfaced before receiving severance payments of £106,000, and a £427,000 pension contribution from the hard-up council.

Perhaps more alarmingly, it has also been revealed that the bumper deal was approved not by elected councillors, but by her fellow officials. This practice is contrary to Audit Scotland’s guidelines and raises questions as to who is actually in charge of the council.

MSPs have expressed outrage and demanded a full investigation into the council’s early retirement procedures, as well as a radical review of voluntary severance payments. It is unacceptable that taxpayers have been left to pick up the bill for these costly mistakes while the director in charge has escaped full accountability. The fact that she has been handed such an obscene pay-off only rubs salt in South Lanarkshire taxpayers’ painful and costly wound.Local taxpayers in South Lanarkshire have been lumbered with a bill for half a million pounds after the council’s finance chief walked away from her position with a lucrative, golden goodbye.

Linda Hardie was forced out of her Finance Director job into early retirement at 50 after her department was swindled out of £100,000 in an unsophisticated scam, shortly before a £38m budget error emerged.

Hardie, who was earning £127,000 a year, was placed on full-salary gardening leave for six months after the “arithmetical errors” surfaced before receiving severance payments of £106,000, and a £427,000 pension contribution from the hard-up council.

Perhaps more alarmingly, it has also been revealed that the bumper deal was approved not by elected councillors, but by her fellow officials. This practice is contrary to Audit Scotland’s guidelines and raises questions as to who is actually in charge of the council.

MSPs have expressed outrage and demanded a full investigation into the council’s early retirement procedures, as well as a radical review of voluntary severance payments. It is unacceptable that taxpayers have been left to pick up the bill for these costly mistakes while the director in charge has escaped full accountability. The fact that she has been handed such an obscene pay-off only rubs salt in South Lanarkshire taxpayers’ painful and costly wound.

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