Lord Mayor tries to stop York resident criticising ‘stratospheric’ chief exec payout

Cllr Janet Looker intervenes. Photograph: City of York Council / YouTube
27 Feb 2020 @ 8.07 pm
| Politics

First they tried to award a six-figure payout to the council’s chief executive in secret.

And now a resident who wanted to raise the matter in public has been told she is not allowed to.

As we reported last week council leaders have agreed to pay a £400,000 exit settlement to Mary Weastell, who has not been at her desk at City of York Council since last summer.

This deal was struck behind closed doors and without any public scrutiny.

Today York resident and local government campaigner Gwen Swinburn condemned the council, saying: “We know this farrago will have cost us nearer three quarters of a million.”

But the Lord Mayor and chair of the meeting Cllr Janet Looker tried to suppress Ms Swinburn’s comments. She said the budget meeting was an inappropriate forum for comments about this large council payout.

This matters

Ms Swinburn told the council budget meeting: “So a further statutory officer after just two and a half years ‘at their desk’ has been awarded a stratospheric exit package-following many months paid absence.”

She added:

  • This declared cost like the extra councillor pay, confirms money can always be found for the few.

    This matters at this budget time as we face the next budget cycle with yet an additional half a million pounds shortfall.

    Vulnerable citizens are being denied services as top staff exit with outrageous packages & councillors award themselves 20 to 50% pay rises, back paid.

She said “in a further unsavoury twist it seems the council at large is to be denied a say”.

Interrupted twice

Gwen Swinburn speaks at the meeting
Mary Weastell

Chair of the meeting Cllr Looker interrupted twice to try to stop Ms Swinburn.

Cllr Looker said: “We are restricting ourselves to the budget and the issue you are raising here – although it may have a tangential effect – is not on the budget papers and is not part of the agenda we are discussing this evening.

“If it is going to be raised, and it is very difficult because you are discussing personal matters, then I think it probably needs to be in a different forum and in a different place.”

Ms Swinburn stood her ground and finished her comments.