Thousands of public servants may have been given pay-offs involving gagging orders when they left their posts

  • 200 Whitehall and 4,562 council staff have signed compromise agreements
  • Eric Pickles warns councils against 'under-the-counter' pay-offs for silence

By Helen Lawson

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Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles warned councils against using 'under-the-counter pay-offs to silence departing staff'

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles warned councils against using 'under-the-counter pay-offs to silence departing staff'

Almost 5,000 public servants may have been given pay-offs involving gagging orders when they left their posts, figures have revealed.

Some 200 staff in Whitehall and 4,562 in local authorities have signed 'compromise agreements', many of which involved confidentiality clauses, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles warned councils against using 'under-the-counter pay-offs to silence departing staff'.

He said: '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.

'By shining a light on these activities and introducing new democratic checks and balances to stop gagging orders being abused we are helping councils improve accountability in local government.'

Last month Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt banned the use of gagging orders which prevented NHS staff raising concerns about patient care in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire scandal.

The move came in the wake of whistleblower Gary Walker speaking out over his concerns for patient safety after being sacked from his role as chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust.

 

Mr Walker, who was sacked 'gross professional misconduct' over alleged swearing at a meeting, said he was forced to quit after refusing to meet Whitehall targets for non-emergency patients and was gagged from speaking out as part of a £500,000 settlement deal.

Mr Walker was told by NHS-funded lawyers: ‘Should you breach the term relating to confidentiality, you will immediately repay to the trust, on demand, all sums paid under this agreement in full.’

According to The Daily Telegraph’s figures, the use of compromise agreements is widespread across town halls and Whitehall.

A Freedom of Information survey found that 256 councils in Britain signed compromise agreements with former staff between 2005 and 2010.

Last month Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt banned the use of gagging orders which prevented NHS staff raising concerns about patient care in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire scandal
Gary Walker was sacked from his chief executive role at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust and handed a £500,000 gagging order

Last month Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt banned the use of gagging orders which prevented NHS staff raising concerns about patient care, such as the £500,000 deal handed to former chief executive Gary Walker, right

The number of confidentially agreements issued by councils soared from 179 in 2005 to 1,027 in 2010. Brighton & Hove City Council has signed the most, with 123 agreements with former staff.

In central Government, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has signed the agreements with 83 officials over the past two years, at a cost of £2.6million.

The Treasury has signed agreements with 64 individuals at a cost of £2.5million, although only a 'small number' involved confidentiality agreements.

The Department for Transport signed 40 agreements in the past three years, all of which contain confidentiality clauses.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change signed 12 agreements containing confidentiality clauses at a total cost of £1.5million, the Ministry of Justice signed 15 at a cost of £250,000, while the Foreign Office spent £5.5million on compensation agreements.

 

The comments below have not been moderated.

Pickles proclaims much but delivers nothing.

Click to rate     Rating   6

This went on for years at my local Council, started when they employed a hopeless Chief Executive, so many people signed gagging orders with pay offs after they left to stop tribunal cases against him, he was incompetent and aggressive, he once said when told one member of staff had become pregnant to sack her. Of course it is all covered up and hidden. It is a disgrace the public sector can behave like this.

Click to rate     Rating   6

Not enough to tell them no more gagging orders. They need to declare that all orders in ace are null and void so that we can finally here what they have been covering up. I bet half of them aren't gags at all. I bet they are just another way for them to pay off their mates.

Click to rate     Rating   10

I want every last person involved arrested and made to pay all the money back.

Click to rate     Rating   13

Well look at civil servants first. Their gagging order is the official secrets act.

Click to rate     Rating   2

All gagging orders in the public sector should be made illegal by parliament.

Click to rate     Rating   19

Wow Eric you have warned them. Thats big of you. How about STOPPING THEM YOU PLONKER.

Click to rate     Rating   12

Where as our democracy gone? Totally outrageous. Apparatchiks rule O.K! Cameron your no better ten B.Liar and Co.

Click to rate     Rating   10

The Police should get themselves involved - they work for us, not the politicians or establishment. Jayzuss, what a stupid statement I made there!

Click to rate     Rating   10

This happens all the time in big business. I myself recieved over 120,000 for NDA when I left a former employer a few years ago. Oh, wait a minute I actually work for a living unlike Civil servants!

Click to rate     Rating   10

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