BARNSLEY Council spent almost £2m in redundancy fees as it laid off 54 people last year, new figures have revealed.

New data from the Department for Levelling Up and Communities shows the council spent £1,982,000 to make 54 staff members redundant in the year to March 2023.

Each package had an average cost of £37,000 each.

The council made a total of 29 redundancies the year before, at a cost of £997,000 - though this was an anomaly due to the coronavirus pandemic having an impact.

It spent £438,000 less than in the year to 2020, when its bill for redundancies was £2,420,000.

Coun Robin Franklin, cabinet spokesperson for core services, told the Chronicle: “As an organisation, we look at the roles we have and the career journey and personal aspirations of the people in them.

"The figures from the Department for Levelling Up and Communities include a wide range of situations, including people who have taken voluntary redundancy.

“Payments are determined by salary and length of service, with pension costs a key factor in payments for people aged 55 and over."

Nationally, over £185m was spent on staff redundancies by councils across England, the lowest annual amount in nine years.

Last year just over £214m was paid out to departing employees.

The number of staff taking redundancy also hit the lowest point since 2014, with over 7,800 exit packages agreed, at an average cost of £23,000.

This was a slight increase on last year, when the figure was £22,000.

The Local Government Association said unlike the civil service councils have seen their workforce shrink while facing ‘increasing demand for services’, and called for a rethink of Government funding to combat ‘severe budget pressures’.

Coun Pete Marland, chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, said: “Despite increasing demand for services, local authorities also face challenges in getting the right people into the right roles, such as in children’s services, adult social care and planning.

“Our own workforce survey shows 94 per cent said they were experiencing recruitment and retention difficulties.

“Only long-term, consistent funding from central government will be enough to meet inflationary pressures and the rising costs of the National Living Wage, on top of increasing energy and other costs, if we are to avoid more redundancies and prevent exacerbating an already acute capacity crisis in some areas.”

The figures also show nationally there were 325 senior employees made redundant last year, an increase of 70 on the year ending 2022.

Together they received a total of £28m, at an average of £85,000 each.

Ian Miller, honorary secretary of the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives, said payouts to senior council staff were significantly lower than those to top civil servants.

“Council funding has not kept pace with inflation and demand for services,” he added.

“The figures demonstrate how senior staff continue to lose their jobs because of the need to find savings.

“The cost of the average exit package for senior staff has fallen significantly in absolute and real terms since 2015.

“The £85,000 cost of the average exit package for senior staff in local government pales into insignificance compared to the £335,000 paid to Sir Tom Scholar when he was sacked as Permanent Secretary of HM Treasury and the £122,000 he received as ‘annual leave adjustments and compensation in lieu of notice’.

“Perhaps the government needs to look closer to home in monitoring exit payments.”