By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has questioned who exactly is in charge of South Lanarkshire Council, after further revelations emerged over the controversial £500,000 pay-off of a senior official.
It has now been disclosed that Councillors at the local authority had no involvement in approving the severance package of Finance Director Linda Hardie, with the decision instead being left entirely to Ms Hardie’s fellow council officials.
This procedure was in line with the Council’s own standing orders – but contrary to Audit Scotland’s guidelines.
Further, the Council was criticised by auditors for sending Ms Hardie – whose department had lost £100,000 in a fraud scam in 2010 and made a £38m error in its budget cut calculations – on fully-paid leave for 6 months, during which time she received £60,000 in salary.
Ms Hardie took early retirement aged just 50 and received a half million pound payoff from the Labour led local authority.
A report by auditors found “there is no documentary evidence to demonstrate value for money for the full pay provided from 18 October, 2010 to April 18 2011.”
SNP MSP Christina McKelvie has now written to Council Leader Eddie McAvoy demanding that he conduct a full review of the Council’s arrangements for early retirement procedures, questioning how often incidents like this have occurred.
Commenting, Ms McKelvie – MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse said:
“This issue is much wider than just this one pay-off. The revelation that Councillors are not involved in approving surrounding such deals raises serious questions about how South Lanarkshire is being run.
“Why is that decisions about early retirement appear to have been left to council management – contrary to Audit Scotland’s guidelines?
“How many other pay-offs like this have been approved in South Lanarkshire, and is this still occurring?
“I have written to Eddie McAvoy and demanded that he conduct a full review of the council’s procedures surrounding approval of early retirements. It’s not good enough to just say that such pay-offs are ‘in line with standing orders’ when it’s the procedures themselves that are the problem.
“Given that the Council are dragging their heels over thousands of equal pay claims for low-paid staff, we need answers quickly.”
In September 2010 it emerged the Council had been conned out of more than £100,000 after it was targeted by an African fraud gang.
The local authority paid out £102,000 to the gang after they posed as one of their suppliers, the authority then had to pay out another £102,000 to the real suppliers.