Taxpayers foot £¼bn bill for public-sector workers leaving jobs
More than a quarter of a billion pounds has been shelled out by taxpayers in recent years as thousands of Scottish workers take up early retirement and exit packages in the face of cuts.
Over 11,000 staff have accepted severance deals according to a Freedom of Information request, with almost £100 million paid out last year alone.
It means the average deal is worth £23,140 to public-sector workers, although this is likely to vary widely.
Salaries account for the overwhelming majority of budgets, with councils alone employing 270,000 people across Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s annual budget of about £30bn has faced swingeing cuts, as Chancellor George Osborne aims to reduce the UK’s massive deficit. Spending in Scotland is in line to fall by about 11 per cent, with a £1.3bn reduction in 2011-12 alone.
Last week, council chiefs unveiled proposals to shorten the school day in the Highlands to save almost £30m, while NHS Lothian’s new chief executive Tim Davidson warned staff are working in a “pressure cooker” environment, with too few employees to cope with demand.
Union leaders warn the “salami slicing” of budgets has reached a critical point and is reaching the stage where services are suffering.
Dave Watson of Unison said: “You’re getting to the stage now where the scale of the cuts are such that the only way you can plug that gap is to say, ‘We’re not going to do X or Y’. Councils are already having to close things or not do things that they used to do.”
He added: “If you take the people out of the service, you don’t deliver it – it’s as simple as that.”
The number of retirement and severance packages has soared in past two years, according to the information gathered from 48 public sector bodies including the councils, the NHS, police and quangos. A total of 11,308 staff have taken exit deals in the past three years.
But this figure jumped from 1,952 in 2009-10 to 4,903 in 2010-11 and 4,453 last year.
The amount paid out has reached £261.7m over the past three years. This has also increased from £46.6m in 2009-10 to £115.4m the following year and then £99.6m in 2011-12.
The figures only cover workers who have taken severance deals and do not include the loss of jobs through general “turnover” where staff leave or retire and are not replaced.
Union leaders say that more 20,000 jobs in total were lost last year and this could reach 60,000 throughout the period of the spending cuts.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Meeting the long-term financial pressure facing Scotland is a challenge that is shared by the whole public sector, as we work to maintain services and improve outcomes for the people of Scotland.”
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