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Scheme closes after paying over £2m in severance

A severance scheme for retiring councillors has closed after giving out more than £2m in golden handshakes.

In total 136 councillors received pay-offs of up to £31,200 each.

The payments followed a reduction in elected representatives from 582 to 462.

A severance package for those who stepped down was agreed, and applied to any councillor who served for at least 12 years.

The Belfast Telegraph has carried a series of investigations into the pay-offs.

In July we reported how an initial £1.8m had been shared by 103 councillors.

In August we disclosed that a further 27 outgoing councillors were included in a second round of severance payments.

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The 27 councillors received pay-offs totalling £400,000.

The Department of Environment confirmed the scheme was now closed.

"The total paid out is £2,326,600. No further payments are due," it said.

The National Association of Councillors previously defended the pay-offs, saying it was a recognition of years of service.

"Some of these councillors have given 30-plus years to local government. In line with many companies and different organisations, where numbers are reduced, there is a pay-off that goes with it," Joe Boyle, who is secretary of the association, said at the time.

But the severance scheme had attracted criticism, including from some councillors themselves.

Austen Lennon, a former independent councillor in North Down, said he opposed the pay-offs.

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