TWO councils have been criticised for promoting a “golden goodbye” culture after it emerged nearly £1.3million had been spent paying off staff in the past year.

Southend Council agreed exit packages for 48 departing staff, costing taxpayers £789,380 in the past year, while Basildon Council spent £509,324 on 46 staff in the same period.

The bumper pay-offs come despite both councils trying to save millions of pounds due to Government cuts.

The figures have prompted critics to slam a “golden goodbye”

culture at both councils.

Andy Silvester, campaign manager at the Taxpayer’s Alliance, said: “For too long, councils have given out golden goodbyes with impunity, and it’s one of the reasons the UK’s finances are in such a fragile state.

“The cost of local government simply has to come down.”

Of the 48 staff who left Southend Council, nine of them were redundancies, while the other 39 were voluntary. That includes a £69,000 payout to a senior education official and £41,000 to a senior member of council staff.

There was also a rise in the wage bill for top staff at the authority, from £1,824,710 in 2012/13 to £1,883,807 in 2013/14.

Tim Sneller, Unison representative for Southend Council staff, said: “This shows the hidden cost of cuts to councils.

“Funds for redundancies need to be found by councils, despite themhaving to cut staff tomake savings anyway.

“Obviously, we won’t support people getting huge golden goodbyes and getting a massive spending package for leaving the council, but the council does have a policy where redundancies are related to pay, albeit not at a brilliant rate.”

The figure for Basildon was more than treble the £163,126 it paid on laying off eight staff in 2012/13.

Just five of the departures were redundancies.

Nigel Smith, deputy leader of the Labour party on Basildon Council, said: “I’ve been very critical of the costs involved in getting rid of council staff, especially when staff losses result in a reduction in services.

“At the same time, it is costing a huge amount of money to get rid of people and it is essentially spending a lot of taxpayers’ money for them to get a reduction in services.

“The whole culture of paying lots of money seems to be in a lot of areas, such as banking, but it should not be in