Belfast Telegraph

Council chief lands new public job day after £275k pay-off

By Rebecca Black

A woman who received a £275,000 golden handshake to leave a high-profile public sector job is to start a new post funded by the public purse - the very next day.

Sharon O'Connor is the chief executive officer of Derry City Council.

She will receive a £275,000 package as she leaves the role at the end of March when the old 26-council structure is dismantled.

The day after she finishes at Derry City Council, Ms O'Connor will start her new role as chairperson of the Education Authority.

The Department of Education announced yesterday that Ms O'Connor has been appointed as chair of what will be the biggest public body in Northern Ireland from April 1.

She will be paid £50,000 plus expenses for the part-time role - which the Belfast Telegraph can reveal has a time commitment of just three days a week. In announcing Ms O'Connor's appointment yesterday, the Department of Education said she has more than 20 years' experience as a chartered director, non-executive director, vice-chair, committee chair and board member.

She was appointed chief executive of Derry City Council in 2011 on an annual salary starting at £107,500 plus expenses.

Her pay-off was negotiated as a £165,500 redundancy payment and a pension plan of almost £110,758. More than 3,500 people voiced their outrage at the severence package online.

She previously told the Belfast Telegraph: "I can say that the figure in the media will not be a one-off payment, but it is a deal made up of a number of parts, including pension provision. This is based on my 15 years of employment with local government and is not just for the three years I have been with Derry City Council.

"It marks my departure from local government.

"It is taxable and it certainly will not mean that I can retire."

From April 1, Ms O'Connor will chair the Education Authority (EA), a new public body comprised of the five education and library boards plus staff commission.

Gavin Boyd has been appointed as chief executive while the board members have not yet been announced. The EA will govern education in Northern Ireland and was aimed to be a massive reform of the system to realise financial savings. Mr O'Dowd revealed yesterday that due to cuts to his department, the EA's 2015/16 budget will face a £9.9m cut. Ms O'Connor's appointment sparked an angry exchange in the Assembly chamber on Monday between TUV leader Jim Allister and Mr O'Dowd - despite her name not having been announced at that point.

Mr O'Dowd said he was satisfied that the appointments he had made, including that of the chair, were correct and met the criteria.

Story so far

The Education Authority (EA) is a new public body that will come into force on April 1.

It will be the amalgmation of the five current education and library boards and staff commission, and will administer education across Northern Ireland. Ex-CCEA chief Gavin Boyd has been appointed as interim chief executive of the organisation.

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