MORE than £41 million of public money has been paid out by Lothian councils, colleges, universities and the police to shed more than 3500 staff over the past five years.
The massive cash outlay to reduce the public sector workforce through redundancies, early retirement and severance packages was today criticised by Labour, who said the Scottish Government should be investing in more jobs instead of forcing people out of employment. The SNP blamed cuts from Westminster.
The figures for the years 2008-9 to 2011-12 were compiled following a series of Freedom of Information requests by Labour. Calculations suggest the average deal cost the taxpayer £17,500.
The figures show that over the past five years Edinburgh council paid out more than £12m to cut its staff by over 600. West Lothian Council agreed deals totalling over £8.3m for 405 staff. And Midlothian paid out £1.6m to 164 staff. Lothian and Borders Police shed 192 staff at a cost of just over £3m.
Edinburgh University shed over 1500 staff, paying out £10.6m. Edinburgh Napier’s bill was £3.7m for 117 staff, while Heriot-Watt agreed deals worth £3.1m for 132 employees. And Queen Margaret University said goodbye to 65 staff at a cost of £1.1m.
Jewel and Esk College paid out £2.3m to an undisclosed number of staff; Telford’s bill was £2m for 132 staff; and Stevenson’s was just under £1m for 52 staff. NHS Lothian did not provide the details sought.
Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said: “The SNP government has chosen the misguided route of spending millions of pounds not on getting Scots into work, but on pushing them out.”
John Stevenson, Unison branch president at the city council, said redundancies were inevitable given the cuts from central government. But he said: “Redundancies don’t just mean job losses, they mean the loss of valuable public services.”
A council spokesman said voluntary early release was an important part of balancing the budget. He added: “There has to be a strong business case that saves the taxpayer money in the long run.”
A spokesman for Finance Secretary John Swinney said public sector employment was falling in Scotland as a result of the cuts by the Tories. He added: “Despite these cuts the Scottish Government are committed to no compulsory redundancies.”