Stafford council spends £222k on gagging orders for former staff

More than £200,000 was paid to council staff by a council in gagging orders to ensure they do not discuss their work once their employment has ended.

Stafford council spends £222k on gagging orders for former staff

Stafford Borough Council spent £222,394 on settlement agreements to 13 former members of staff, a Freedom of Information response has revealed.

The agreements, once called compromise agreements, were between the 2010/11 and the 2014/15 financial years.

Under these agreements, staff members can be given an increased severance package in return for signing away their rights to fight their dismissal.

Councillor Ken Williamson, cabinet member for resources at Stafford Borough Council, said: "Compromise or settlement agreements as they are now known are a commonly used specific type of contractual arrangement used by all types of employers and supported by trade unions alike.

"When these agreements are made they have to include payments that employees are entitled to contractually and under employment law, such as holiday pay and notice periods."

The agreements were given out to 13 departing members of staff.

In 2010 to 2011, £53,859 was given out to six former council staff. In 2011 to 2012, £42,500 was given out to an undisclosed amount of people, while £64,982 was given out during the financial year after.

There were no settlement agreements made across the 2013 to 2014 financial year, but £61,053 was paid out across 2014 to 2015.

In the first year – 2010 to 2011 – £18,526 was paid in one case, while others were given £15,000.

There were two payments of £8,000 and one of £4,333.

This was paid across staff in the law and administration, environment and finance departments. Information for other years is not available.

Settlement agreements were known as compromise agreements until 2013, when the government changed the name to something they said would better reflect the nature of the contract. Although they are quite common, the deals are often criticised for keeping information secret.

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