Ex-Southwark Council housing boss councillor Leo Pollak could still be in line for a £5,000 ‘golden goodbye’ payment despite resigning over a ‘serious error of judgement’.
At last week’s council assembly meeting, Labour councillors refused to back the Liberal Democrats’ call for the payments to be scrapped in cases where cabinet members have either been sacked or resigned over conduct concerns.
Liberal Democrat councillor Anood Al-Samerai told councillors: “I have always thought these golden goodbyes are an absolute scandal… I think it’s outrageous and I think that the fact the leader didn’t even have the guts to tell us that Cllr Pollak will be entitled to claim £5,000 of public money says it all frankly.
“The fact remains that Southwark is the only council in the country that has these golden goodbyes,” she said.
“The specific amendment we are putting forward tonight is about whether somebody who has resigned for poor conduct should be entitled to that golden goodbye.
“If you were sacked for gross misconduct in a job you would not be entitled to a notice period.
“What Cllr Pollak did was absolutely outrageous and unacceptable and what worries me is that I don’t think the Labour party in this borough gets that.”
Previous written questions, submitted in advance of the meeting by the Liberal Democrats, had questioned whether or not the former cabinet member would receive a payment, and if so how much, and asked whether they are a good use of public money.
Cllr Williams swerved the question by insisting that “due process” needed to be followed while the monitoring officer investigated Cllr Pollak’s actions while in his former executive role.
“I don’t think it would be right or appropriate for any of us to prejudge her results of her investigation,” Cllr Williams added.
He also said the reasoning behind the policy in general was an important one as the payments, given to those who can be unexpectedly shuffled out of a role or after an election, claiming it means a more diverse pool of candidates are attracted to roles in public office and not simply those with savings.
As the News reported, the former housing boss had been secretly running an unattributed Twitter account – SouthwarkYIMBY – through which he promoted council housing building programmes and defended the council’s record on housing, but also argued with and harangued residents and campaigners critical of the schemes.
The current Southwark Council policy states that cabinet members are entitled to the ‘loss of office’ payment except if it is the last year of their term and they are not seeking reelection.
They must also have served at least one year in cabinet. The payment is calculated based on time in post.
However, in some cases an oversight committee has final say: “The audit, governance and standards committee (or its relevant sub-committee) will adjudicate on any dispute as to entitlement and any allegation of abuse, and shall be authorised to determine any reduction or withholding of a loss of office payment,” the policy explains.
Since April 2019 three cabinet members have received golden goodbyes: ex leader Peter John was handed £13,911.26; former transport cabinet member Richard Livingstone received £9,337.25, and ex finance chief Victoria Mills was given £7,900.75.