Bid to stop any more 'gagging orders' on departing council staff

Worcester News: The Guildhall, in Worcester The Guildhall, in Worcester

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.

Comments (6)

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6:50pm Wed 25 Jun 14

CJH says...

Anyone surprised at this?
Anyone surprised at this? CJH
  • Score: 5

7:28pm Wed 25 Jun 14

old misery says...

Money money money ???
Money money money ??? old misery
  • Score: 5

8:15pm Wed 25 Jun 14

b1ackb1rd says...

Slush fund to maintain fragile egos and hide incompetents ...
Slush fund to maintain fragile egos and hide incompetents ... b1ackb1rd
  • Score: 6

8:21am Thu 26 Jun 14

Jabbadad says...

How can this be allowed to continue. What secrets do the City Council have to hide from those who elect them.
Surely this has to be laid on the desk of Dunkan Sharkey managing Director?
How can this be allowed to continue. What secrets do the City Council have to hide from those who elect them. Surely this has to be laid on the desk of Dunkan Sharkey managing Director? Jabbadad
  • Score: 2

12:10pm Thu 26 Jun 14

CHANDBRUSH says...

Does anybody believe this will happen Councillor's are a law unto themselves they would not allow voters to know how many "mistakes" they make.
Does anybody believe this will happen Councillor's are a law unto themselves they would not allow voters to know how many "mistakes" they make. CHANDBRUSH
  • Score: 1

8:38pm Thu 26 Jun 14

PaulCa says...

Compare and contrast Worcester City Council's declared compromise agreement figures for 2005 to 2010 in this survey of 345 English councils:

http://goo.gl/17TFCs
Compare and contrast Worcester City Council's declared compromise agreement figures for 2005 to 2010 in this survey of 345 English councils: http://goo.gl/17TFCs PaulCa
  • Score: 1

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