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Mon October 26 2020

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Audit revelations force out HS2 finance chief

25 Oct 17 HS2 chief financial officer Steve Allen has decided to quit the project in the wake of unauthorised redundancy payments being exposed by the National Audit Office.

Steve Allen
Steve Allen

Steve Allen said that he took responsibility for the overly generous redundancy scheme that HS2 had in place, which was exposed by the National Audit Office in July 2017.

In March 2016, HS2 Ltd sought formal permission from the Department for Transport (DfT) for a redundancy scheme, as it needed to restructure its workforce, partly as a result of moving its headquarters to Birmingham. The DfT said that redundancy terms should be at statutory minimum levels; Steve Allen decided they should be at generous civil service levels and went ahead without approval.

HS2 ending up paying out £2.76m in redundancies instead of the £1m for which it had approval.

Steve Allen said today: “The weaknesses highlighted by the NAO report resulted in both the HS2 executive and board being misinformed about the status of critical approvals for redundancies. Those assurances were given by teams for which I was responsible and, obviously, I regret that.

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“So, whilst we are now putting in place the measures to strengthen financial governance systems and to provide robust financial stewardship for the company, I believe it will be appropriate for me to move on.”

HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston exonerated himself from blame: “When I joined the organisation earlier this year we faced a number of issues that needed to be addressed, particularly around our administrative controls and mechanisms on redundancies agreed by the company, as highlighted by the recent NAO report into High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd’s annual accounts. Steve has been absolutely critical in identifying the ways to rectify those issues and make sure they do not happen again.

“But, having done that, I respect Steve’s decision that now is the right time for him to move on. I would like to thank him for all he has done for the company in this formative period. His honourable decision will enable me to build the executive team for the next phase of the project.”

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