MORE than £1.4million was spent on “exit packages” for redundant council staff last year.

Figures released in Southend Council’s accounts show the authority paid out up to £60,000 to each of the 118 employees who lost their jobs in 2011/12.

The numbers dwarf those from the previous 12 months, when just £122,000 was spent on redundancy deals.

However, Nigel Holdcroft, the Tory council leader, said the packages were necessary and warned the authority would face a similar bill this year.

He added: “Obviously because of the funding challenge we face it is inevitable that we will be forced to continue to reduce staff numbers – a situation which mirrors what is happening across all parts of the public sector countrywide.

“I think that so far we have been reasonably successful in keeping the cost of this process as low as possible.

“We have had strict controls in place with regard to recruitment for some years and have operated a successful talent pool, allowing us to place redundant staff in other vacancies across the authority, although obviously only where they have been suitable qualified.

“This has not only enabled us to retain staff who are committed to the town and to the council, but has also avoided far higher redundancy costs.”

Council chiefs were forced to find £15.5million of cuts last year after the Government slashed central funding from Whitehall.

Of the 118 staff to go, four picked up goodbye deals worth between £40,000 and £60,000.

Eighteen received between £20,000 and £40,000, with another 76 banking up to £20,000.

Twenty school staff were also made redundant for up to £20,000 each.

Another 120 jobs were planned to be slashed this year.

A spokeswoman for Unison said the council was burning up taxpayers’ money by making short-sighted cuts.

She added: “We are firmly of the opinion that jobs should not be cut.

“The amount being spent on redundancies is a lot, and a significant portion of the money the council is trying to save.

“Given that they will simply have to re-hire people when the economy recovers, it does not make sense to be doing this.”