“Fears that high-speed rail project HS2’s £55.7bn budget could spiral higher have been underlined by an audit showing unauthorised redundancy payments to staff, far above the government cap on payouts.
HS2 Ltd, the publicly funded company building Britain’s new high-speed rail network, spent £2.76m on payoffs in 2016, of which only £1m was authorised, according to the National Audit Office.
The head of the NAO, Sir Amyas Morse, said the findings highlighted troubling “culture and behaviours” at HS2, which needed to be addressed if taxpayers’ money was to be protected.
The NAO found that the redundancy payments were made in spite of explicit advice from the Department for Transport to HS2 Ltd that it was not permitted to exceed the civil service cap of £95,000.
HS2 circumvented the cap by placing a number of highly paid staff on gardening leave, continuing to pay them for several months although they were no longer working, on top of the maximum payouts. …”
and, in the same article:
“HS2 has an agreement with the Treasury to allow it to pay higher wages than elsewhere in the public sector, which Higgins has insisted is vital to recruit the best talent. The previous chief executive of HS2, Simon Kirby, hired from Network Rail in 2014 to oversee the start of construction on a £750,000 salary, quit last September.“