FIFE Council paid out nearly £12 million in golden handshakes in a “fat cat feeding frenzy”.

That’s the criticism from a councillor after it was revealed the total exit package cost for the local authority was the highest in Scotland. Fife spent £11.7m on 235 members of staff retiring early, with at least £100,000 given to 34 employees.

Conservative councillor Linda Holt said: “Why is Fife spending so much more than other councils on early retirement packages?

"The council’s largesse sticks in the craw of many Fifers not only because it is extremely selective. Lower ranking workers are denied such lucrative deals while their workload, stress levels and job satisfaction all suffer as they have to cover the work previously done by the escapees.

“Splurging almost £12m in one year on six-figure payouts for their own also looks like a fat cat feeding frenzy on the backs of everyone in Fife – who face increased Council Tax bills and cuts in everything the council does from maintaining our roads to staffing our schools.”

In comparison, Edinburgh paid out £3.2m (109 staff), Dundee £1.3m (29 staff), Glasgow £1m (9 staff), Aberdeen £11.2m (246 staff) and Perth and Kinross £1.5m (116 staff).

Eileen Rowand, the council's finance and corporate services executive director, explained: “To meet the continuing financial pressures over the last few years the council has improved efficiency while minimising the impact of any reductions on front line services.

"We have reduced our workforce by around 12% since 2010 on a planned and phased basis, and we know our overall workforce will continue to shrink.

"However, we have also invested in growth areas such as early years, where additional posts have been created to allow increased provision for pre-school children.

"Exit package costs are incurred through retirements as well as redundancy.

"They’re subject to scrutiny and strict controls to make sure we reduce workforce costs and generate future savings.

"Although the costs are significant, it should be noted that not all of this is payable to the employee - a proportion is used to offset any impact on the pension fund in line with early retirement policy."