Sunday, 17 May 2015

Staff exodus cleans out "Golden Goodbye" fund

EWAN LAMB reports

The fund which Scottish Borders Council uses to meet the cost of severance packages and early retirement deals will be completely used up less than two months into the new financial year if councillors agree to let another 53 staff members go when they meet on Thursday.

Now the council faces the prospect of taking hundreds of thousands of pounds from other budgets to meet the £1.3 million bill for the departure of 15 administrative staff and 38 members of the teaching establishment. And other sources of funding will be have to identified if other so-called Golden Goodbyes are approved before the end of March 2016.

A "Managing Our Workforce" report to be considered at the full council meeting reveals that no fewer than 102 teachers expressed an interest in taking redundancy or early retirement during the three months from January to March this year. In addition there were 34 volunteers from other departments.

Senior officers have approved 15 of those applications which will involve one-off costs of £516,051. But it is claimed the departing staff members will allow the local authority to make annual savings of £320,763 on salaries.

Most of the successful candidates for lump sums of up to £38,000 are no longer required because of service restructuring. They range in age from 51 to 61. The departures will place a strain on the council's pension fund of £350,730.

The 38 members of the education service whose requests to leave have been recommended for approval will involve expenditure of £749,539 for 27 severance payments together with £48,201 for 11 pension payments. Annual savings of £503,112 are predicted.

The cost of dispensing with the services of the 38 will be met in part by the £201,949 left in the 2015/16 voluntary severance/early retirement budget. But the exercise will also require a £200,000 departmental contribution with the remaining £395,791 coming from identified corporate funding.

"Action recommended in this report will utilise the full 2015/16 budget for early retirement", adds the document. "Any further approaches before 31/3/2016 will require further budgets to be identified."

Teachers retiring from the Borders education service will have to be replaced under the terms of the local government funding mechanism introduced by the Scottish Government.

The report explains: "This demands the absolute number of teachers and the pupil-teacher ratio to be maintained at 2014/15 levels. A failure to replace teaching staff will result in a significant financial penalty to the council.

"To avoid this risk, before staff are released new replacement teachers will require to have been interviewed and appointed with contracts of employment in place for the start of the new academic year."

The number of staff leaving Borders secondary schools are: Galashiels Academy 7, Berwickshire High School 2, Selkirk High School 5, Peebles High School 5, Eyemouth High School 2, Hawick High School 3, Kelso High School 2 and Earlston High School 2. The remaining volunteers for early retirement work in primary education.

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