Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting WN NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
Bid to stop any more 'gagging orders' on departing council staff
TWO members of staff have signed "gagging clauses" at Worcester City Council over the last year after leaving the authority, it has emerged.
The mystery ex-employees were signed up to confidentiality deals banning them from talking about the reasons why they left.
Your Worcester News can also reveal how the council's managing director says he wants to phase the practise out - after revealing a number of departing workers in previous years have also been signed up to similar orders.
Across the country such contracts are normally used in both the private and public sector to prevent any potentially embarrassing revelations ending up in the media or stop legal disputes.
They can also be used to avoid commercially sensitive information becoming public.
The two workers to have signed the clauses over the last year have not been revealed, but the new Tory leadership now says it wants them stopped.
Earlier this year the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said too many public sector bodies use gagging clauses and pay-offs to 'hide failures'.
Councillor Andy Roberts, cabinet member for cleaner and greener, said: "One of the things I'm concerned about is the use of a compromise clause, I call it a gagging clause.
"I can understand it in some cases like when someone has sensitive information, but although I'm comfortable with it as a politician I'm not as a democrat."
Duncan Sharkey, the council's managing director, now says he would rather see nobody sign up to them.
"You're preaching to the choir as far as I am concerned," he said.
"I'd much rather we talked about why we part company with people - sometimes people who part company with us don't want to do that."
He said as well as the two over the last year there have been "a number" of similar agreements in previous years.
"I believe there's now a willingness to move away from this nationally which I welcome," he said.
Often councils involved in fall-outs with staff take legal advice which leads to the clauses being signed.
The Treasury has to approve any special severance payments which are involved in any agreements around the country.
Latest figures showed that in the three years to March 2013 it approved 1,053 of them involving a total of £28.4 million.
However the true number is likely to be higher because it does not approve payments by the BBC, councils, the police and the growing number of private firms providing public services.