COUNCILS have failed to answer questions after paying half a million pounds in “golden parachute” payouts to departing staff.

Seven senior staff in Sussex split £496,000 in “compensation for loss of office” in the financial year 2016/17.

They also earned £426,000 from taxpayers in salary and pension payments that year.

A spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Alliance said: “Many town hall bosses are continuing to pocket huge remuneration packages, with staggering pay-outs for those leaving their jobs.”

At Arun District Council, the resources director and deputy chief executive took home £103,695 for losing his or her job, in addition to £73,967 in salary and £22,643 in pension contributions.

Also at Arun - which has nine civil servants on six-figure remuneration packages - the outgoing head of neighbourhoods got £76,000 severance plus £4,000 in salary and £19,000 pension payments.

The council failed to provide The Argus with the names of these employees or a statement on the severance payouts.

In Mid Sussex, the head of leisure and sustainability got £81,000 for leaving their job, in addition to £35,000 earned in salary that year plus £6,000 in pension payments.

A council spokesman said - inaccurately - that data protection law prevented him revealing the officer’s name. He said the post was lost during a downsizing which has saved £40,000 and that standard redundancy pay was issued.

At East Sussex County Council, the outgoing chief finance officer received a severance package of £99,000, and earned £52,000 that year plus £11,000 in pension payments.

The council did not provide the officer’s name. A spokeswoman said it was a compulsory redundancy following a merger planned to delivery £9 million in savings and the severance package reflected the officer’s seniority and experience.

In West Sussex, the directors of public health and customer service left with payouts of £29,000 and £38,000 respectively, on top of salary payments in 16/17 of £150,000 between them.

The council refused to answer our questions or provide a comment.

In Lewes, director of service delivery Gillian Marston left with a payout of £68,000 plus £39,000 salary and £3,000 towards her pension. A council spokesman said she resigned in 2016 and the severance payment represented her contractual entitlement.