Controversial Lothian Buses boss Richard Hall received £150,000 golden handshake
Controversial bus boss Richard Hall received a golden handshake worth nearly £150,000 after resigning in February, Edinburgh City Council’s annual accounts have revealed.
The payout of £147,950 which Mr Hall received included was in addition to his annual salary of £174,619, meaning that with an additional benefit of £523 the scandal-hit former managing director was paid £323,091 by the taxpayer during the 2019/20 financial year, an increase of more than £100,000 from the year before.
The payment was also hidden from the public by the bus company despite multiple requests by the Evening News for details of any financial settlement both immediately following Mr Hall’s resignation and in response to a Freedom of Information request in April and June, stating that they did not hold any information about a payment.
Earlier this month, councillors gave a green light for Mr Hall’s interim replacement, Nigel Serafini, to receive a salary of £150,000 with an additional bonus of up to £45,000.
The payment to Mr Hall was also well above salaries and bonuses paid to to the chief executive at the EICC, Marshall Dallas (£183,779), general manager of Edinburgh Trams, Lea Harrison (£180,920, of which £48,895 was in bonuses), and chief executive of Transport for Edinburgh George Lowder (£146,441).
Mr Hall’s pay was described as “eye-watering” by opposition councillors, with the figure equal to 72,000 day-tickets according to the Green’s finance spokesman Gavin Corbett.
Cllr Corbett added: “Lothian Buses is a much-loved and award-winning company but it finds itself in a real hole as a result of plummeting use of public transport during the coronavirus pandemic.
“While I am sure that it will climb out of that hole in time, it will be galling to staff and passengers alike to see former boss Richard Hall walk away with over £300,000 in 2019-20, enough to buy 72,000 day-tickets.
Cllr Kevin Lang, the Liberal Democrat’s transport spokesman, said Lothian was acting as if it had “money to burn”.
He said: “This is a eye-watering amount of money. Worse still, the payout to the outgoing managing director came on top of his already generous six-figure salary.
“Lothian Buses is a publicly owned company providing a public service. Yet you look at these figures and see a company acting like it has money to burn. This culture of big money payouts at the top needs to change quickly, particularly given the worsening financial backdrop.”
Conservative transport spokesperson, Cllr Susan Webber called for golden handshakes to be made in an “open and transparent manner”.
She said: “We can all surely agree with the fact this is a noteworthy amount of money and many, like me will continue to question the need for, and the validity of, pay-outs of this magnitude.
“It is crucial that such payments are made in an open and transparent manner, as without this we can only draw our own conclusions as we attempt to rationalise the reasons why such a substantial payment was deemed necessary in the first place. "
Labour councillor Scott Arthur said he was disappointed at the length of time it had taken for news of the payoff to be made public.
He said: “It's disappointing that it has taken so long for details of Richard Hall's golden handshake to reach the public domain. I dread to think what he would have been paid if Lothian Buses was not mired in controversy for the final year of his tenure.
“This episode adds to the argument for councillors and passengers having more say in how the company is run as it rebuilds after lockdown. A publicly owned company must be publicly accountable, councillors and passengers must have a greater say in how this company operates.”
Jim McFarlane, chair of Lothian called for the focus to be on moving forward.
He said: “Richard Hall stepped down as Managing Director of Lothian Buses at the end of March 2020.
“It is vital that we now look forward, Lothian’s senior leadership team are working tirelessly and effectively, to manage the impact of COVID-19 on our business and are focused on leading us through the next phases of recovery.”
Leader of the council, the SNP’s Adam McVey said: “It’s worth paying tribute to the role Lothian Buses has played in helping key workers travel during the pandemic and, alongside Edinburgh Trams, there is no question that they will have a crucial role to play in supporting our city’s recovery from Covid-19.
“These pay awards - and other remuneration quoted in this report – relate to last financial year, before the crisis took hold. The terms of these packages are a matter for the boards of the respective companies to agree and almost all bonuses have already been removed from the company’s pay structure already.
“Given the financial pressures that we’re all now facing, I’ve written to each making clear that the inclusion of a bonus should be reconsidered in contracts going forward for the three remaining across the companies.”
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