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The Daily Telegraph follows up this morning – on an Evening Standard report yesterday – with the story that London councils have spent £200 million on redundancy payments over the last two years.

The startling aspect is how high some of the individual payments are. Topping the league was Andrew Kilburn, the former chief executive of Waltham Forest council who left after less than two years in the job, with a total of £432,000.

The Freedom of Information requests by the Evening Standard show a pattern of Labour boroughs, often in the poorest parts of the capital, splashing out the most. Tower Hamlets has spent £15.8million, Lewisham £14.5million, Haringey £12.4million, Hackney £10.5million, Barking and Dagenham £11million, Lambeth £10.3million, and Greenwich £9.5million.

Brandon Lewis, the Local Government Minister, has criticised "eye-watering sums being shelled out which in some cases would make a Premiership manager blush."

However Professor Tony Travers says the payments are "an inevitable consequence of the Government’s decision to cut local government spending so fast."

Really, Professor Travers? Then why are some councils spending so much more than others? The prospect of funding being reduced should have been foreseen well before 2010, whoever won the General Election.

Another defence is that the redundancy payments reflect contractual obligations. If so, why were such extravagant contracts authorised in the first place?

Then there is the matter of gagging clauses. How much extra was spent for these to be included?

There is a double cost here. Without such clauses some waste and mismanagement might have been exposed – rather than the cosy arrangement of it being protected from view.

The Government rightly champions transparency to achieve accountability and thus better value for money. That must mean gagging clauses should be banished not just from the NHS but the rest of the public sector – including local government.

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