SFA made #163;300k payout to director who was in post for just three months

26th August 2011 at 01:00
Agency was given Treasury approval for Mary Conneely's `compulsory early retirement' funds

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) won Treasury approval to give a payout of more than pound;300,000 to a retiring director, its annual report reveals.

The Treasury granted the "extra-contractual" element of the severance package when national projects director Mary Conneely took compulsory early retirement - civil-service terminology for voluntary redundancy - last year, leaving a pound;120,000 job to which she had only been appointed three months earlier.

The SFA said the "substantial majority" of the payout reflected a lump sum in lieu of a contractual entitlement to annual payments until pension age.

Using the civil service compensation scheme's guidelines, FE Focus calculated that a standard payout for compulsory early retirement for someone of Ms Conneely's age with 10 years' service would be a lump sum of about pound;106,000, with further payments until pension age.

The SFA declined to comment on how much the extra-contractual sum was, and how it was justified to the Treasury, saying the details were confidential.

A spokeswoman for the SFA said: "Mary Conneely left under compulsory early retirement terms on 30 June 2010 and received a compensation package of pound;303,000.

"Her retirement was part of our restructuring programme that will save the taxpayer pound;48 million per annum. The post she occupied no longer exists, demonstrating a saving of year-on-year salary and associated costs. In this context we are satisfied that this payment represents good value for money."

But Barry Lovejoy, head of FE at the University and College Union, who did not want to comment on individual circumstances, said high payouts to senior figures showed the limited impact of redundancies on deficit reduction, as the cost of the severance package could be several years' salary.

He said it also contrasted with the treatment of teaching staff losing their jobs. "Members facing redundancy across the sector are generally lucky to receive as much as five or six months' salary," he said.

"It's a reflection of how austerity seems to affect different categories of people differently: those already on high rewards do much better than teachers who are on lower pay."

Compulsory retirement is standard civil service terminology for the situation when someone aged 50 or over takes voluntary redundancy.

Ms Conneely joined the former Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in 2000 as director of the east London region, after 15 years as founder and chief executive of a computer-based training company. As regional director for regeneration, she was responsible for co-ordinating the LSC's efforts to produce the training infrastructure for the Olympic Development Agency.

In April last year, she was promoted to national projects director of the SFA, adding procurement and a lead role on data security to her job description, only to take compulsory retirement at the end of June.

Packages

pound;500k not to go to Manchester

Ms Conneely's payout follows an exit package awarded to a former senior executive of the Training and Development Agency for Schools worth more than half a million pounds.

As reported in The TES earlier this month, Leanne Hedden, the TDA's executive director for supporting delivery, received a compensation package of pound;549,457 when she chose not to relocate from London to Manchester.

Eighteen people who left the agency voluntarily went with deals worth more than pound;100,000, it was revealed. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, described the payouts as a "huge level of waste".

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