Kingston’s top council official has left her position after two years in the job, and will receive a mammoth £300,000 payout.
Charlie Adan joined the council as CEO in 2016 to oversee the Conservatives’ "reshaping" of the borough’s services.
She has now agreed to leave, less than two months into the new Liberal Democrat administration’s tenure.
Conservative former council leader and current leader of the opposition Kevin Davis called the decision “a disaster”.
He said: “I’m struggling to understand it. It’s not just me who says this, but she’s one of the best. She’s been extremely good at reshaping staff and homing in on our priorities.”
The departure of Ms Adan, whose annual salary was somewhere between £170,000 and £174,999, is costing the council £312,000 including pension costs.
A spokeswoman said she could not break down the figure.
Council leader Liz Green said she recognised “that the former administration thought highly of Ms Adan’s work, and that she had exemplary appraisals from them”.
Cllr Davis said: “I’ve not seen anything other than the press statement, and it seems like she’s been pushed out just because she and Liz Green didn’t get along.
“That’s not how it’s supposed to work.
“When the last chief executive resigned, we worked with him for about 18 months before he left. And he’d been at the council for 15 years - it cost less than it’s costing this time.”
The position will be filled by current deputy chief executive Roy Thompson for up to 12 months or until a replacement is found.
Cllr Green in her statement thanked Ms Adan for the work she had done.
The statement continued: “The new administration will be taking the council in a new direction, and this will require a change to the way the organisation is led and managed. I am grateful to Charlie for agreeing to leave at this time.”
Because the statement was agreed with Ms Adan and lawyers, Cllr Green said she was unable to give any more details about the nature or terms of the departure.
Asked about the new direction of the council, Cllr Green said she does not think some of the savings planned by the previous administration for the year are deliverable.
She gave the example of structures for making money from property ownership having not been left in place by the Conservatives, meaning they will not begin generating income until halfway through the year.
She also said there would be less focus on growth in the borough, and wanted to move away from the Tories’ ambition to become an “enabling council” that facilitates but does not always provide services.
But she stressed that specific changes to the direction of the council were not necessarily related to Ms Adan leaving.
Ms Adan said in the statement: “I am very sorry to be leaving Kingston. I have greatly enjoyed working for the Royal Borough over the last two years and together with a great team of officers, partners and councillor colleagues, we have achieved a lot.
“I was set the task of bringing about change and transformation, and I have done so. I have focused on achieving outcomes, transforming the way the council works and creating a new operating model to meet the challenges facing the council.
“Our ‘no stone unturned’ strategic financial review created a financial plan to meet funding constraints. I have fundamentally changed the organisation’s design and culture and will be leaving a highly networked team, a leaner, fitter and more focused organisation with greatly reduced workforce costs.
“I will be sad to be leaving such a high quality team.”