CSA troubleshooter accused on document leaks and pension

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The Independent Online

Sir David Henshaw, the man chosen by the Work and Pensions Secretary, John Hutton, to turn around the Child Support Agency (CSA), is embroiled in a massive row in Liverpool over a controversial pensions deal and the leaking of confidential documents.

Sir David, 56, is retiring early as chief executive of Liverpool City Council on 31 March after an agreement with the council's Lib Dem leader, Warren Bradley.

The deal gives Sir David a £90,000 payoff, in lieu of six months' notice, and a £250,000 top-up to his pension. By claiming his pension before 6 April, when the new Pensions Act comes into place, Sir David is also saving around £200,000 in tax.

Sir David starts at the CSA in early April. As well as enjoying his full pension, he is to receive £180,000 a year for working two days a week.

The pensions deal has caused an uproar on Merseyside. And this increased when it emerged earlier this month that Sir David had passed confidential reports on the council's potential investment in a local tram scheme to the Department for Transport (DfT), before councillors were allowed to see them.

The documents refer to legal opinion about guarantees that Liverpool and Knowsley councils were to give to Merseytravel's £311m tram project.

The DfT blocked the scheme last year because it was worried that the councils could not guarantee cost overruns. A High Court challenge to this decision was thrown out earlier this month. Merseytravel is appealing.

In court, it emerged that Sir David had emailed the legal option to Bob Linnard, a senior DfT official, on 31 October, four days before it was to be presented to councillors.

The then head of Liverpool council, Mike Storey, has said he was unaware that Sir David had sent the document to Mr Linnard. It also emerged that he sent two other reports to Mr Linnard without informing council members or Merseytravel.

Joe Anderson, the head of the Labour group on Liverpool council, has written to Mr Bradley demanding that he suspend Sir David and review the deal struck with him, in light of the court revelations. "I see this as gross misconduct," said Mr Anderson.

A spokesman for Liverpool City Council denied this, saying that Sir David "was sharing information" with the council's partner in government.

The Department for Work and Pensions refused to comment on Sir David's conduct or his pensions deal. "We do not comment on someone's personal affairs," said a spokesman.