MORE than £650,000 has been spent by Worcestershire County Council on ‘gagging’ employees who have been made redundant.
Coun Peter McDonald said the figures, from the last three years, showed 55 individuals were given an average pay-off of more than £11,000 after signing settlement agreements.
The deals, dubbed gagging orders by critics, are generally used when an employee leaves an organisation to prevent them talking publicly or to the press about their former company and to protect sensitive information.
They are also used to waive the departing worker’s right to legal action, whether it be through an employment tribunal or claim for breach of contract.
But Coun McDonald said at a time when the council was tightening its belt with services being cut and thousands of employees losing their jobs, hundreds of thousands of pounds were being ‘frittered away on gagging deals’ with former employees.
He added it should concern everyone the county council had things to hide and asked why so many people were being silenced when it came to redundancies.
“The role of local authorities is to serve local communities, not to gag former staff members restricting transparency.” he said.
“Measures such as so-called compromise agreements demonstrate the blatant disregard the council has for local taxpayers.
“In times of austerity, the council should be cutting out wasteful spending and focus on delivering essential public services more efficiently to avoid unnecessary hikes in household bills.”
Coun John Campion, responsible for transformation and change, said the council, like many large employers, did on rare occasions make responsible and appropriate use of settlement agreements, previously known as compromise agreements.
He added: “The council subjects any proposed settlement agreement to a robust internal approval process and the employee must have received independent legal advice from a relevant adviser.”