A huge payout handed to a senior member of council staff has been defended by the town hall today.

Deputy chief executive for environment and regeneration, Shifa Mustafa, was given a pay-off totalling £140,447 when she was made redundant.

The decision was made by a committee chaired by Clyde Loakes, at the same time as chief executive Martin Esom’s annual pay packet was boosted by £15k.

A spokesman for the council said that the authority was obliged to make the payment under the terms of her contract.

He said: “The senior management restructure proposals that are currently taking shape are looking to create an estimated saving of around £248,000 per annum.

“Shifa Mustafa’s departure was part of that restructure and all payments to her were entirely in line with contractual obligations.

“The terms and conditions of Local Government contracts are largely set by central government and accordingly issues such as redundancy and periods of notice are governed within agreed parameters. There was nothing out of the ordinary with regard to Ms Mustafa’s contract.”

However, a spokesman for the government department for communities and local government rubbished the claims, stating that although guidelines may state that a payment should be offered – it is down to each local council to choose the amount.

A statement from the Department for Communities and Local Government is expected shortly.