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Camden Council criticised after spending £3.25m on ‘gagging’ redundant staff

PUBLISHED: 15:05 21 January 2015 | UPDATED: 15:05 21 January 2015

Councillors said they would look to see if a link existed between bed cuts and serious incidents

Councillors said they would look to see if a link existed between bed cuts and serious incidents

Archant

Camden Council has been accused of wasting money by spending £3.25million on “gagging” departing employees.

The figures were released following a written question from Lib Dem Cllr Flick ReaThe figures were released following a written question from Lib Dem Cllr Flick Rea

Since 2009, some 392 staff leaving the cash-strapped council were paid an average of £8,000 to sign compromise agreements, all of which contain confidentiality clauses.

Most receiving the payments were staff made redundant by the council.

The use of these agreements by public sector employers has been heavily criticised by central government.

Back in 2013, communities secretary Eric Pickles warned councils over the so-called “gagging orders”, saying: “For too long, local government has made departing staff sign gagging orders, often with big pay-offs attached, away from the eyes of those who get left with the bill: the taxpayer.

“When leaving a job, councils and their employees need to part ways fairly.

“Giving out thousands in under-the-counter pay-offs to silence departing staff is not the way to achieve this.

“Councils have a responsibility to the public and transparency is at the heart of that.”

As chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Labour MP Margaret Hodge also spoke about the issue last year.

She said: “We are deeply concerned about the use of compromise agreements and special severance payments to terminate employment in the public sector.

“It is clear that confidentiality clauses may have been used in compromise agreements to cover up failure, and this is simply outrageous.

“A confidentiality clause in a compromise agreement is not meant to prevent legitimate whistleblowing – but people who have been offered, or accepted compromise agreements have clearly felt gagged.

“The end result here is the risk that public bodies reward failure just to avoid attracting unwelcome publicity.”

The figures were provided following a written question asked by Cllr Flick Rea, Lib Dem representative for Fortune Green.

She told the Ham&High: “It’s a fairly amazing total to pay out. You could think of so much the council could do with that amount of money.

“It seems to be pouring money down the drain [and] makes you wonder what’s so wrong with working in Camden Council they have to keep people quiet?”

The council said the agreements were “standard practice” and “do not prevent the member of staff taking forward complaints under the Public Interest Disclosure Act”.

The response added: “These agreements protect and provide clarity to both the staff member and the organisation on the terms of the staff member leaving the organisation.”

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