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Outcry as quango heads forced to resign receive huge pay-outs

THE departures of two senior executives from Scotland's national arts funding body in the wake of heavy criticism has cost the taxpayer more than £110,000.

DISSENT: Artists heavily criticised Creative Scotland while it was run by Andrew Dixon, above, who consequently was forced to leave his post.
DISSENT: Artists heavily criticised Creative Scotland while it was run by Andrew Dixon, above, who consequently was forced to leave his post.

Former Creative Scotland chief executive Andrew Dixon and creative development director Venu Dhupa's have received thousands of pounds in handouts to help them find new jobs.

Mr Dixon stepped down last year after a near-three-year period in charge that saw him heavily criticised by the arts community.

Creative development director Venu Dhupa left at the end of 2012.

Documents reveal the pair have been paid an extra £15,000 each in "benefits in kind" to cover re-employment counselling and legal expenses as part of compromise agreements.

The deals include a total of £80,000 for Mr Dixon, who later became founding director of Edinburgh-based Culture Creativity Place and advised Hull's successful City of Culture 2017 bid. Ms Dhupa became a freelance creative consultant in the wake of a damning internal report.

Mr Dixon, who was on a £130,000-a-year salary at Creative Scotland,  has accrued pension scheme benefits three months after he left of around £60,000 a year plus a £180,000 lump sum, both payable on retirement.

Robert Oxley, campaign director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said the "benefits in kind" payment was a "deeply odd arrangement that only creates further questions about the pay-offs". He added: "Creative Scotland is an incredibly wasteful quango that has consistently squandered taxpayers' money.

"These payments are extraordinarily generous and are typical of a body that fails to keep a track of its spending. It is long overdue for scrapping."

Full details of the extent of the departure costs has emerged in the wake of the row over a £300,000 pay-off for a former Historic Scotland chief executive.

It emerged last week that Holyrood has rubber-stamped civil service redundancy packages worth £18 million in the past year.

Mr Dixon officially resigned from his post in December 2012. However, the chief executive remained with Creative Scotland to complete handover and transition tasks for a further two months.

He received £65,000 in lieu of notice, which was the equivalent to six months' pay on top of the £15,000 benefits-in-kind bonus.

Ms Dhupa received £19,000 in lieu of notice, equivalent to three months' pay, on top of the £15,000.

Mr Dixon left Creative Scotland three months after the national funding body, which hands out £83m a year to the arts sector, received an open letter signed by more than 100 artists and cultural bodies slamming it over what they described as an intrusive management style and lack of empathy for culture.

Leading Scottish poet Don Paterson referred to it as a "dysfunctional ant-heap" while the damning artists' letter, signed by figures such as John Byrne, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, AL Kennedy, Liz Lochhead and Ian Rankin criticised its "ill-conceived decision-making; unclear language and lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture".

They said it was guilty of setting "artist against artist".

The quango had come under fire earlier in the year after a shake-up ended regular funding for 49 arts bodies.

The benefits in kind provided to both executives also included "outplacement" compensation, to cover support in helping them with transition to new jobs and help them re-orient to the job.

Mr Dixon said he had resigned because, despite his track record, he had failed to "gain the respect and support of some of the more established voices in Scottish culture."

He said at the time: "I hope that my resignation will clear the way for a new phase of collaboration between artists and Creative Scotland."

A spokesman for the arts organisation said: "The terms of both Mr Dixon's and Ms Dhupa's departure were agreed within the parameters of their contracts and authorised by the Scottish Government."

We reported on Monday that Andrew Dixon had accrued about £60,000 worth of pension scheme benefits three months after leaving Creative Scotland and that he received a pension pot lump sum of £180,000.  The sums are, in fact, payable on retirement. Also, he was chief executive of Creative Scotland for nearly three years, not six months as reported.

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