Marvin Rees has defended the decision to keep details of a “huge pay-off” to a former city director private – saying “we have been transparent”.
The Bristol mayor, who announced in August that 1,000 jobs must be cut at the council to save money, said he had followed the correct processes after it was finally revealed that former chief executive Nicola Yates received a £200,000 compensation package when she left after an alleged disagreement with Rees.
Bristol City Council had twice denied requests by Bristol24/7 to see the full details of the agreement under the Freedom of Information Act.
But the silence was broken by Tory councillor Richard Eddy who said that he understands her severance pay totalled £200,000.
The councillor also claimed that the decision was taken before the Human Resources Committee met on August 4, so that the relevant councillors were not able to scrutinise the action in public.
Rees told BBC reporter Dickon Hooper at a child sexual exploitation campaign launch: “We’ve been transparent which is at the heart of what we want to do.
I asked the Mayor about Nicola Yates. We were at a Child Sexual Exploitation campaign launch – hence the background pic.twitter.com/kU0Yz4k13e
— Dickon Hooper (@dickonhooper) September 1, 2016
Rees said: “We’ve talked to all the party leaders in all the processes we went through. I talked to my cross-party cabinet and talked to members of the senior leadership team.”
He added: “In the processes we’ve gone through in trying to make the changes that we wanted to in the council, and that goes right across looking at the way cabinet works, the way information flows through, the way we work with elected members; we’ve talked to our colleagues across party.”
The front page of the Bristol Post accused Rees of “spending £200,000” to oust the chief executive in secret at a time when 1,000 job losses at the council had just been announced.
Yates, who earned a £160,000 basic salary, was brought in as city director in 2013 six months after George Ferguson became Bristol’s first elected mayor.
She was previously the chief executive of North Shropshire Council and then Hull City Council until she left her post suddenly in 2012 amid speculation of a breakdown in relations with the council’s Labour leadership. Yates was paid £250,000 in compensation.
In Bristol, she came under fire for presiding over the slowest election counts in the UK for the local elections this year where she was the chief returning officer for the council – earning an extra salary for this role – and also rhyming Cotham with Gotham and Frome with ‘home’.
Yates also faced pressure over levels of transparency of the city’s European Green Capital project, which she oversaw as chief executive of Bristol 2015. She was paid £18,000 for this third post, but faced demands from the Lib Dems to pay back the money she earned.
Eddy said he believed relations between Rees and Yates broke down over the Green Capital accounts after Rees chose to publish 600 invoices in the name of transparency.
Yates was awarded an OBE in 2010 for services to local government and took £5,000 of her Bristol City Council salary in Bristol Pounds.
She has been replaced by interim chief executive Stephen Hughes who earns £1,000 a day for a four-day week.
A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: “Nicola Yates left Bristol City Council by mutual agreement and the terms of her contract were honoured in line with normal employment practice.
“With regards to the specific details alleged, we cannot confirm or deny the accuracy of information which would be confidential personal data and legally privileged.”
Read more: Council boss Nicola Yates to leave