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A story in the Daily Telegraph this morning that should motivate armchair auditors.

They have spotted that Katherine Kerswell was paid £589,000 by Kent County Council in the last financial year. It should be noted that £420,000 of this was redundancy pay – she had been on a four year contract and it was less than half way through. But that is still the most staggering amount.

Where does the story come from? Not from any secret leaked document but from looking at Kent County Council's website. They include it in their draft Statement of Accounts 2011-12.

The Daily Telegraph report says:

"The county council has previously refused to disclose details of the pay-off, saying it was subject to a confidentiality agreement.

"But under new transparency rules on top executive pay, the details have now had to be reported.

The council leader Cllr Paul Carter said:

"Removing chief executive posts is what more and more councils should be doing. Employment law and contractual obligations mean we have to pay significant redundancy costs, but it will save a fortune in the long run.

"Our council is now being guided by officers who have worked their way up and know what life is like from a Kent taxpayers' perspective. The highest paid staff in local government are valuable, experienced people but when savings need to be made I think taxpayers would rather see cuts to management than to frontline staff."

It may well be that redundancy sometimes makes sense. But it is welcome that council's are now obliged to come clean about the costs and savings involved. This sort of publicity will make council's less extravagant in the generousity of the terms they offer when recruiting staff. It is no good a council just shrugging off excessive redundancy payments as a contractual obligation or claiming they should be confidential. They chose to sign the contract and must expect to be held to acccount.

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