COUNCIL IN ‘RECORD PAY-OFF’ SCANDAL

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Willie Docherty is in line to receive a staggering £615,000 when he steps down next year Sunday November 13,2011 By Ben Borland

A CONTROVERSIAL quango boss who gave lucrative contracts to millionaire Labour donors is set to pocket Scotland’s biggest ever public sector ‘golden goodbye’.

The Sunday Express understands Willie Docherty, head of cash-strapped Scottish council’s arm’s-length firm, is in line to receive a staggering £615,000 when he steps down next year.

Part of a special super-charged early retirement package, the prospective deal includes a £465,000 tax-free sum on top of his £150,000 salary – an annual wage higher than Prime Minister David Cameron.

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Mr Docherty, 55, the chief executive of City Building Glasgow, is no stranger to controversy, as he was closely linked to drugs shame former Glasgow City Council leader Steven Purcell and has faced repeated cronyism accusations because of his links with Labour.

Last month, it emerged that Scotland’s 32 councils have spent more than £65million on golden goodbyes over the past two years. But Mr Docherty’s would be easily the largest single payment – and equal to almost one hundredth of the total paid to tens of thousands of ordinary council staff.

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All too often we see executives walk away with huge amounts of taxpayers’ money and these types of deals have to come to an end
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John O’Connell, research director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance

It was described yesterday as a “massive slap in the face” for the council taxpayers of Scotland’s largest city, many of whom are among the poorest in Western Europe.

John O’Connell, research director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will be furious if any of their cash has been used to fund this golden goodbye.

“All too often we see executives walk away with huge amounts of taxpayers’ money and these types of deals have to come to an end if we want to have sustainable public finances in the future.

“We must ensure that no money can be taken from the budgets of hard-working families to fund extravagant exit deals for the top-brass at organisations that sit in the grey area between the public and private sectors.”

James Dornan, leader of the council’s SNP group, said: “If the figures are true then this is an incredible payout that taxpayers will struggle to understand – especially in this financial climate.

“This money could be used to support the people of Glasgow but instead it is paying off an official in Labour’s favourite quango.

“It is sickening to learn this is possibly the largest council pay-off in the UK – and is consequently a massive slap in the face from Labour to the people of Glasgow.”

The record British council pay-off is thought to be £545,000 paid to Wakefield chief executive John Foster in 2009, while Sir John Elvidge, Scotland’s top civil servant, received a £300,000 deal when he retired as Permanent Secretary last year.

Tom Aitchison, the chief executive who left Edinburgh City Council £1.3billion in debt, received a £210,000 lump sum when he walked away in January.

Glasgow’s £120million early retirement fund has already come under fire after it emerged the city’s property stock had been re-mortgaged in order to fund generous pay-offs for high-earning executives.

The local authority is facing a budget described by the council leader as “the hardest we have ever faced”, including a £122million cut in housing payments.

As part of his pay-off, Mr Docherty is also rumoured to be in line to receive a 40 year service bonus despite only having 30 years with the council and its subsidiary.

A former apprentice who grew up in Glasgow’s tough Castlemilk scheme, his wife Sadie is a Labour councillor in the city.

City Building was formed in 2006 from Glasgow City Council’s old Building Services Department, one of 12 ‘arm’s length’ firms set up by former leader Mr Purcell. The council maintains ultimate responsibility for the company.

Mr Docherty announced he was stepping down in September, boasting that he had grown the business into one of Scotland’s largest construction firms. However, its order book is swelled by dozens of lucrative council and other public sector contracts from Glasgow and the west of Scotland.

Mr Docherty said at the time: “It has been an enormous privilege to lead City Building into the commercial marketplace where it now competes on an equal footing with the private sector.”

The firm came under scrutiny when it awarded more than £10million of vehicle and heavy plant contracts to a company owned by Labour backer Willie Haughey.

City Building also awarded a £600,000 contract to Labour donor Andrew Smillie’s scaffolding firm, and gave out £100 vouchers for a restaurant owned by Labour supporter James Mortimer.

Mr Docherty also came under fire for spending £4,000 of City Building’s budget on tables at two Labour fundraising dinners.

Claims of “cronyism” at the council subsidiary were further sparked by the appointment of Lesley Quinn, Scottish Labour’s former general secretary, to a newly created business development post.

City Building insisted last night that the package has not been finalised, although the Sunday Express understands these figures have already been discussed at the highest levels.

A spokesman said: “Willie Docherty does not retire until March 31, 2012, and his retirement package will be finalised shortly before his leaving date. Any employee’s retirement package is confidential, and, like any business, is specific to the pension contributions that the individual has made throughout their time with the organisation.”

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