Union boss Derek Simpson's £500,000 golden goodbye

The leader of the country's biggest trade union has expressed shock at a six-figure severance payment to one of his predecessors.

A report to a meeting of Unite's executive revealed that Derek Simpson was paid more than £500,000 when he left his post last year, including a £361,000 severance payment.

Mr Simpson, 66, who stepped down as joint general secretary, also received almost £100,000 in salary, and more than £51,000 in housing benefit and car allowances.

Members of Unite's executive were said to be "shocked and angry" at the size of the payment.

Len McCluskey, who succeeded Mr Simpson and Tony Woodley, who were joint leaders of Unite, made it clear he believed the payment was "inappropriate" and that it was made by a regime with lower standards of transparency and probity.

He stressed there would be no "golden goodbyes" at Unite while he was leader.

The size of the payment only came to light at the start of the year when the financial books of Amicus and the Transport and General Workers Union, which merged to form Unite in 2007, were finally combined.

Mr Woodley is still employed by Unite and did not receive a pay-off, the executive was told.

One source said: "The executive is very concerned that this blast from the past could undermine all we're trying to do to take on the Government's spending cuts but are determined not to allow it to blow the union off course. Len made it very clear that we cannot allow actions in a former union to derail us."

Unite will make a statement confirming the pay-off today.