Nicola Yates abruptly left her post as Chief Executive of Hull City Council fourteen months ago. The speed of her departure was breathtaking, and for a council that likes to think it is open and transparent, we still don't know the reason why she was shown the door. There were rumours that the relationship between her and council leader, Steve Brady, had broken down so much that they were not returning each other's calls and e-mails; but that's all they were - rumours. At the time the council also refused to reveal how much she received as compensation for loss of office, even though ultimately it would have to be revealed in the 2012-13 accounts.
Yesterday, we found out.
Ms Yates was paid £160,000 a year, and received a pay-off of £242,677 - the equivalent of more than eighteen months salary. It is hardly surprising the council were so secretive at the time. Not that this is an excuse. Council taxpayers in Hull have a right to know how their money is spent. Just because revealing the size of a pay-off may be politically embarrassing doesn't mean they shouldn't find out immediately rather than fourteen months down the line.
We have written before about the 'public sector merry-go-round'. When Katherine Kerswell left her job as Managing Director of Kent County Council, the council was equally secretive about the amount she received to walk out of the door. It was later revealed that she was paid £420,000. Not that Ms Kerswell found herself out of work for long. She quickly secured a job in the Cabinet Office, ironically in charge of Civil Service reform.
It's the same story with Nicola Yates. Despite accepting an eye-watering amount of taxpayers' money to leave Hull, she managed to secure the job of Bristol Council's City Director. This is all part of a broken culture that accepts secrecy as the norm, and that accepts large pay-offs to go elsewhere as a price worth paying.
Try telling that to campaigners in Hull who are trying to stop the closure of the city's only competition-sized swimming pool at Ennerdale Leisure Centre. In a very heated and nasty debate last week, councillors traded insults with each other and tried to settle old scores, but the news that Ms Yates received a pay-off of almost a quarter of a million pounds only adds insult to injury for them.