UPDATED – 345 English Councils’ compromise agreements – with gagging clauses – How did your council score?

*STOP PRESS*

3rd April 2016

BBC Radio 5 Live Investigates are covering compromise agreements today at 11AM.  Link to details here:

Radio 5 Live Investigates – Settlement Agreements and Gagging Clauses

 

2nd April 2013 – The Daily Telegraph publishes an article based on this research

03 05 13 - telegraph front page

Hi, if you’re a journalist or writer and seeking to use the information gathered here in an article, please be courteous and credit Paul Cardin, Wirral Freedom of Information Campaigner.  Many thanks!

Compromise Agreements (now known as Settlement Agreements) are legal documents, regulated by statute, and represent ‘full and final settlements’, entered into by both employer and employee. These contracts are very often used in dispute circumstances, when organisations feel there’s a pressing need to dispense with ‘problem people’, whilst ‘managing’ their own, sometimes embattled reputations.  The ‘beauty’ of these, as far as public sector employers are concerned is, when used in conjunction with “gagging clauses”, they are a quick and cheap means of:

  • disposing of staff
  • concealing the employer’s own often questionable conduct
  • avoiding the punitive costs and reputational risks attached to tribunals
  • drawing public attention away from malpractice, impropriety, scandal, immoral conduct, abuse and potentially worse e.g. links to serious organised crime.

They also very often don’t receive the kind of scrutiny from elected councillors that would be expected within democratic organisations, ostensibly set up to serve the public in an open and transparent manner.  Unelected senior officers are very often entrusted with addressing and resolving these issues beyond public view and behind closed doors.

In other words, they’re a kind of ‘democratic deficit’ or ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card’.  More here.

In local government and the NHS, compromise agreements and the gagging clauses that accompany them are quickly becoming ‘the tool of choice for hard-pressed reputation managers.  The above Daily Telegraph article highlights the exponential rise in their use over the 6 year period in question.

The following Freedom of Information survey was conducted in 2011 – and covers the years 2005 through to 2010.  There are no figures for subsequent years.

Figures were sought for compromise agreements drawn up in dispute circumstances, and the first part of the FoI request was set out as follows:

Please supply Annual totals for the following:

As far as records go back, the annual figures for the total
of current employees / ex-employees (including teaching staff) of the Council who have signed compromise agreements directly related to the resolving of dispute(s) / grievance(s) / internal and external investigation(s) / whistleblowing incident(s).

Importantly, compromise agreements drawn up in dispute circumstances are the most likely ones to contain “gagging clauses”.  It’s likely these are fairly prolific, however I can’t confirm their presence without seeing the actual text of the agreements themselves (which is sensitive personal data, protected by S.40 of the FOI Act).

Occasionally it is possible to gain more information.

See this excerpt from “By Mutual Agreement”, an Audit Commission document dealing specifically with the subject of severance payments for senior public servants within final settlements.

“Within local government, there is a new requirement for
authorities to publish in their statements of accounts the
individual financial details of any severance payments to all
senior officers earning over £50,000. Those earning over £150,000 are to be identified by name, with all others by post title. These provisions form part of a wider requirement to publish all aspects of remuneration of senior officers, such as salaries and bonuses, and come into effect fully on 1 April 2010.”

These requests had to be carefully worded, to ensure that they didn’t all fall foul of the ‘costs exemption’ – which requires that the amount of dedicated officer time doesn’t go above 18.5 hours.  I later made modifications to rule out ACAS COT3 agreements (a similar type of agreement) and those drawn up for equal pay claims or redundancy situations, etc.

Click on your own local council’s name, or any other that takes your fancy, to follow the link to the WhatDoTheyKnow website.  Here you’ll find the details of the chosen council’s response.  I have much more information relating to response times; totals broken down by year; whether the answer arrived within the 20 working days permitted, and some CA figures going back to 2000.

All these and more are available upon request.

English 2006 to 2011
Local Number of
Authority Compromise 
Agreements issued in
dispute circumstances
Allerdale District Council 3
Amber Valley Borough Council 10
Arun District Council 3
Ashfield District Council 1
Ashford Borough Council 10
Aylesbury Vale District Council 4
Babergh District Council 1
Banbridge District Council 2
Barking & Dagenham Borough Council 25
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council 92
Barrow in Furness Borough Council 1
Basildon District Council 16
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council 4(+4)(£108,000)
Bassetlaw District Council 0
Bath and North East Somerset Council 19
Bedford Borough Council 18
Bexley Borough Council 26
Blaby District Council 5
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council 24
Bolsover District Council 2
Bolton Borough Council 107
Boston Borough Council 7
Bournemouth Borough Council 89
Bracknell Forest Borough Council 13
Braintree District Council 2
Breckland District Council 1
Brent Borough Council 102
Brentwood Borough Council 2
Brighton & Hove Council 123
Bristol City Council 121
Broadland District Council 6
Bromley Borough Council 24
Bromsgrove District Council 7
Broxbourne Borough Council 3
Broxtowe Borough Council 2
Buckinghamshire County Council 76
Burnley Borough Council 5
Bury Borough Council 7
Calderdale Borough Council 11
Cambridge City Council 7
Cambridgeshire County Council 18
Cannock Chase District Council 2
Canterbury City Council 0
Carlisle City Council 14
Castle Point District Council 0
Central Bedfordshire Council 0
Charnwood Borough Council 4
Chelmsford Borough Council 6
Cheltenham Borough Council 2
Cherwell District Council

Cheshire East Council

3

11

Cheshire West and Chester Council 25
Chesterfield Borough Council 4
Chesterfield Borough Council 0
Chichester District Council 6
Chorley Borough Council 1
Christchurch Borough Council 2
City of York Council 11
Colchester Borough Council 3
Common Council of the City of London 33
Copeland Borough Council 3
Corby Borough Council 8
Cornwall Council 22
Cotswold District Council 0
Coventry City Council 114
Craven District Council 6
Crawley Borough Council 4
Dacorum Borough Council 6
Darlington Borough Council 76
Dartford Borough Council 5
Daventry District Council 4
Derby City Council 22
Derbyshire County Council 23
Derbyshire Dales District Council 5
Devon County Council 16 – see November 2013 BBC website article – £2.8 million spent gagging former staff
Doncaster Borough Council 21
Dorset County Council 26
Dover District Council 2
Dudley Borough Council 45
Durham County Council 12
Ealing Council 35
East Cambridgeshire District Council 3
East Devon District Council 6
East Dorset District Council 1
East Hampshire District Council 8
East Hertfordshire District Council 3
East Northamptonshire District Council 3
East Staffordshire Borough Council 3
East Sussex County Council 21
Eastbourne Borough Council 9
Eastleigh Borough Council 0
Eden District Council 0
Elmbridge Borough Council 5
Enfield Council 30
Epping Forest District Council 1
Epsom & Ewell Borough Council 12
Erewash Borough Council 23
Erewash Borough Council 6
Fareham Borough Council 0
Fenland District Council 9
Forest Heath District Council 6
Forest of Dean District Council 0
Fylde Borough Council 2
Fylde Borough Council 10
Gateshead Borough Council 45
Gedling Borough Council 4
Gloucester City Council 0
Gosport Borough Council 2
Gravesham Borough Council 0
Great Yarmouth Borough Council 2
Guildford Borough Council 5
Hackney Borough Council 31
Halton Borough Council 42
Hambleton District Council 0
Hambleton District Council 11
Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council 65
Harborough District Council 4
Haringey Borough Council 30
Harlow District Council 6
Harrogate Borough Council 1
Harrow Borough Council 54
Hartlepool Council 95
Hastings Borough Council 0
Havant Borough Council 4
Hertfordshire County Council (Appealed to ICO) 15
Hertsmere Borough Council 11
High Peak Borough Council 16
Hillingdon Borough Council 14
Horsham District Council 0
Hounslow Borough Council 25
Huntingdonshire District Council 1
Ipswich Borough Council 9
Kent County Council 95
Kettering Borough Council 6
Kings Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council 3
Kingston upon Thames Borough Council 9
Kirklees Borough Council 15
Knowsley Borough Council 8(see this request)(see this Liverpool Echo article)
Lambeth Borough Council 19 (see this request)
Lancashire County Council 20 (£630,000 plus)
Lancaster City Council 2
Leicestershire County Council 25(+31) (£481,779)
Lewes District Council 1
Lichfield District Council 2
Lincoln City Council 2
Lincolnshire County Council 49
London Councils 2
Maidstone Borough Council 6
Maldon District Council 3
Malvern Hills District Council 7
Mansfield District Council 3
Melton Borough Council 0
Mendip District Council 0
Merton Borough Council 30
Mid Suffolk District Council 0
Mid Sussex District Council 6
Milton Keynes Council 20
Mole Valley District Council 10
New Forest District Council 3
Newark and Sherwood District Council 8
Newcastle under Lyme Borough CouncilNewcastle upon Tyne City Council 10

10

Newham Borough Council 25
Norfolk County Council 47
North Devon Council 5
North Dorset District Council 8
North East Derbyshire District Council 6
North Hertfordshire District Council 6
North Kesteven District Council 2
North Lincolnshire Council 0
North Norfolk District Council 0
North Somerset Council 0
North Tyneside Council 72(further info)
North Warwickshire Borough Council 6
North West Leicestershire District Council 25
Northampton Borough Council 2
Northamptonshire County Council 27
Northumberland County Council 5
Norwich City Council (Appealed to ICO) 11
Nottinghamshire County Council 0 (see this request)
Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council 4
Oadby and Wigston Borough Council 3
Oxford City Council 3
Pendle Borough Council 1
Poole Borough Council 43
Portsmouth City Council 33
Preston City Council 6
Purbeck District Council 0
Reading Borough Council 13
Redbridge Borough Councijl 15
Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council 58
Redditch Borough Council 0
Reigate and Banstead Borough Council 9
Ribble Valley Borough Council 15
Richmond upon Thames Borough Council 51
Richmondshire District Council 6
Rochdale Borough Council 4
Rochford District Council 0
Rossendale Borough Council 0
Rother District Council 0
Rotherham Borough Council 36
Rugby Borough Council 4
Runnymede Borough Council 0
Rushcliffe Borough Council 5
Rushmoor Borough Council 4
Rutland County Council 2
Ryedale District Council 2
Salford City Council 40
Scarborough Borough Council 9(further info)
Sedgemoor District Council 4
Sefton Borough Council 37
Selby District Council 6
Sevenoaks District Council 3
Shepway District Council 7
Slough Borough Council 13
Solihull Borough Council 60
South Bucks District Council 5
South Cambridgeshire District Council 7
South Derbyshire District Council 3
South Gloucestershire Council 81
South Hams District Council 2
South Holland District Council 1
South Kesteven District Council 5
South Lakeland District Council 0
South Norfolk District Council 6
South Northamptonshire District Council 2
South Oxfordshire District Council AND Vale of White Horse District Council 4
South Ribble Borough Council 3
South Somerset District Council 3
South Staffordshire Borough Council 1
Southampton City Council 48
Southend on Sea Borough Council 0
Spelthorne Borough Council 10
St Albans District Council 12
St Edmundsbury Council 3
St Helens Borough Council 25
Stafford Borough Council 9
Staffordshire County Council 39
Stevenage Borough Council 12
Stockport Borough Councjil 33
Stockton on Tees Council 53
Stratford on Avon District Council 1
Stroud District Council 6
Suffolk Coastal District Council 6
Sunderland City Council 93
Surrey County Council 23
Surrey Heath Borough Council 18
Sutton Borough Council 55
Swale Borough Council 0
Swindon Borough Council 20
Tameside Borough Council 84
Tamworth Borough Council 0
Tandridge District Council 3
Taunton Deane Borough Council 8
Teignbridge District Council 1
Telford & Wrekin Council 5
Tendring District Council 3
Tewkesbury Borough Council 1
Thanet District Council 6
Three Rivers District Council 1
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council 1
Torbay Borough Council 15(selective)
Torridge District Council 5
Trafford Borough Council 34
Uttlesford District Council 0
Vale of White Horse District Council 10
Wakefield City Council 60
Walsall Borough Council 26
Waltham Forest Borough Council (Appealed to ICO – Not limited to dispute circumstances) 126
Wandsworth Borough Council 25
Warrington Borough Council 17
Warwick District Council 10
Warwick District Council 1
Watford Borough Council 12
Waveney District Council 6
Waverley Borough Council 0
Wealden District Council 5
Wellingborough Borough Council 1
Welwyn Hatfield District Council 0
West Berkshire Borough Council 17
West Devon Borough Council 0
West Dorset District Council 24
West Lancashire District Council (Appealed at ICO) 1
West Lindsey District Council 12
West Oxfordshire District Council 4
West Somerset District Council 4
Weymouth and Portland Borough Council 5
Wiltshire Council 13
Winchester City Council 0
Wirral Borough Council (Appealed at ICO – Very last council to report) 12
Woking Borough Council 0
Wokingham District Council 24
Wolverhampton City Council 27
Worcester City Council 0
Worcestershire County Council 25
Worthing Borough Council 2
Wychavon District Council 2
Wycombe District Council 5
Wyre Forest District Council 0
Total 4562

The following councils either went to internal review, overturning the initial refusal, or opened up, deciding to release the information anyway:

English 2006 to 2011
Local Number of
Authority Compromise 
Agreements issued in
dispute circumstances
Ashfield District Council 1
Bath and North East Somerset Council 18
Blaby District Council 19
Haringey Borough Council 30
Hertsmere Borough Council 11
Kettering Borough Council 6
Kirklees Borough Council 15
Knowsley Borough Council 8
Lambeth Borough Council 19
Leicestershire County Council 25
Malvern Hills District Council 7
Newham Borough Council 25
North Somerset Council 0
Salford City Council 40
South Bucks District Council 6
Sutton Borough Council 55
Tameside Borough Council 18
Tewkesbury Borough Council 1
Walsall Borough Council 26
Wokingham District Council 20
Worthing Borough Council 1
Wyre Forest District Council 0
Total 351

The following local authorities relied on various exemptions within the Act to withhold the information.  Most common was the Costs Exemption, where it was claimed that finding and supplying the information would take more than 18 hours of officer time – the equivalent of £450 in costs.

These were taken all the way to appeal at the Information Commissioner’s Office, but with mixed results:

English 2006 to 2011 Exemption
Local Number of or reason
Authority Compromise
Agreements issued in
dispute circumstances
Barnet Borough Council 0 Cost of locating data
Birmingham City Council 0 Cost of locating data
Blackpool Borough Council 0 Cost of locating data

72 agreements totalling £992,973 (between 2007 and 2013)

Bradford City Council 0 Misunderstood the request
Camden Borough Council 0 No Central data / Cost
Chiltern District Council 0 Exempt personal data
Croydon Borough Council 0 No Central data / Cost
Cumbria County Council 0 Cost of locating data
East Lindsey District Council 0 No Central data / Cost
East Riding of Yorkshire Council 0 Cost of locating data
Essex County Council 0 Cost of locating data – see December 2013 press article – £1.1 million spent gagging former staff
Gloucestershire County Council 0 Couldn’t exclude TUPE etc.
Greenwich Borough Council 0 Cost of locating data
Hampshire County Council 0 Cost of locating data
Havering Borough Council 0 No Central data / Cost
Herefordshire Council

(Council’s method of storage changed and  updated following receipt of the request – but not for historical agreements)

0 No Central data / Cost

Herefordshire approached in February 2013

…and again in September 2014

…and for costs in September 2014

Hertfordshire County Council 15 No Central data / Cost
Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council 0 Exempt personal data
Hull City Council 0 Nothing heard
Isle of Wight Council 0 No Central data / Cost
Islington Borough Council 0 Cost of locating data
Leeds City Council 0 Couldn’t exclude TUPE etc.
Leicester City Council 0 No Central data / Cost
Lewisham Borough Council 0 Cost of locating data
Liverpool City Council 0 Cost of locating data
Luton Borough Council 0 Cost of locating data
Manchester City Council 0 Cost of locating data
Medway Council 0 Cost of locating data
Mid Devon District Council 0 Cost of locating data
Middlesbrough Council 0 No Central data / Cost
North East Lincolnshire Council 0 No Central data / Cost
North Yorkshire County Council 0 Cost of locating data
Norwich City Council 11 Exempt personal data
Nottingham City Council 0 Nothing heard – See December 2013 press article – £600,000 spent gagging former staff
Oldham Borough Council 0 Exempt personal data
Oxfordshire County Council 0 No data / Cost / resources
Peterborough City Council 0 Cost of locating data
Plymouth City Council 0 Cost of locating data
Sandwell Borough Council 0 Cost of locating data
Sheffield City Council 0 Cost of locating data
Somerset County Council 0 Cost of locating data/delay(Evasive)(contradictory)(Passed to ICO Criminal Investigations Team)
South Tyneside Borough Council 0 Nothing heard
Southwark Borough Council 0 Nothing heard
Staffordshire Moorlands District Council 0 Exempt personal data
Stoke on Trent Council 0 Cost of locating data
Suffolk County Council 0 Don’t hold the data
Test Valley Borough Council 0 Cost of locating data
Thurrock Borough Council 0 Want to charge a fee for ‘disbursements’
Waltham Forest Borough Council 126 Cost of locating data
Warwickshire County Council 0 Cost of locating data
West Lancashire District Council 1 Cost of locating data
West Sussex County Council 0 No Central data / Cost
Westminster City Council 0 Exempt personal data
Wirral Borough Council 12 Cost of locating data
 (Some news from Wales on this subject – Cardiff Council spends £26 million gagging former staff)
Total (included earlier)

We don’t know how many compromise agreements were drawn up in dispute circumstances at the councils who successfully withheld this information.  And with ‘difficult’ respondents, it may take some more probing before we can get this information released into the public domain – where it belongs.

It’s not surprising that many of the councils named in this final section are currently making repeat appearances in Private Eye’s “Rotten Boroughs” page, or are well-known as disappointing performers:

e.g. Barnet, South Tyneside, Wirral, North East Lincolnshire, Camden

According to Wirral Council’s publicity machine, they hadn’t been counting compromise agreements – so I’m puzzled at where the figure of 12 came from…

UPDATE   17th April 2013

Wirral have just answered the following FoI request which was placed well over 6 months ago – once again they’re in breach of the Act:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/total_annual_figures_for_comprom_347#incoming-379710

Since the Council took a calculated decision not to record or report the existence of these sensitive documents, WHO KNOWS how they arrived at these figures?  The same goes for the totals quoted for years 2005 to 2010.  They look extremely low, given this organisation has engulfed itself in the depths of scandal for well over a decade.  The total is now updated to 24 compromise agreements over an eight year period.   Due to compounded failure, we have to view this total with extreme suspicion.

Martin Morton explains his compromise agreement and unlawful gag here

More from:

The Brighton Argus ……and an article from June 2011

The Bradford Telegraph and Argus

UPDATE   23rd April 2013

In response to the Council’s answer to the above FoI request, and in light of their self-declared failure to monitor and report compromise agreements as they were issued, I lodged the following, asking how they could have arrived at accurate figures:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/with_compromise_agreements_not_b#outgoing-269319

My request was branded “vexatious”.  They implied I was accusing them of lying.  In reality, it’s their competence I’m questioning – I’ve provided evidence for this.

This is the second time in recent weeks that Wirral Council have used the “vexatious request” option to withhold the information.  I”ve asked for an internal review and will be taking this to the ICO if required.

Finally, here are two simple charts indicating annual totals since 2005.  What’s striking is the exponential growth in Local Authorities’ use of compromise agreements over the period under question.  A surefire indicator that all is not well.

Brighton & Hove City Council came out top of the survey, with 123 compromise agreements in dispute circumstances over 6 years.

The average number per council was just over 14.

The ‘droop’ at the end is not ‘a change of heart’ – it’s figures working through internally, but not arriving in time to be reported and displayed in time for when the requests were placed in January 2011.

number of compromise agreements chart

brighton compromise agreements chart

I would expect the trend to continue upwards and the true figure to be above 1,220 for 2010.  Projecting forward, 2011 would be above 1,450, 2012 around 1,650, and 2013 around 1,850.

10 05 13 - projected CA figures

In line with the above, the total number of agreements with gagging clauses between 2001 and 2013 is:

9,509

In the NHS, the average severance payout for gagged officials was £29,000.  A very conservative estimate for Local Authority payouts would be £15,000.

This would equate to 9,509 x £15,000 or …….

£142 million

I also made enquiries of The Law Society, one of the vested interests desperate to continue making easy, ready money out of this ongoing “cover up of a multitude of sins”

…but predictably, this fell upon stony ground.

UPDATE   14th January 2014

Answers are in for 21 of the 22 Welsh local authorities.  1,347 compromise agreements.  Total squandered = £32 million +

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/thousands-gagging-orders-struck-welsh-6504084

It’s interesting that this equates to an average payout per agreement of £23,756.  If the English agreements are similar, this would equate to 9,509 x £23,756

or a total of…

£226 million

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About Wirral In It Together

Campaigner for open government. Wants senior public servants to be honest and courageous. It IS possible!
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6 Responses to UPDATED – 345 English Councils’ compromise agreements – with gagging clauses – How did your council score?

  1. Pingback: Isle of Wight council Compromise Agreement figures revealed | Isle of Wight News from On The Wight

  2. Mary says:

    Thanks for the great work

  3. Pingback: Gagging For It – Story Goes National | Wirralleaks

  4. Paul,I have followed your quest for the truth with great interest & you trying to get down to the truth about this corrupt council its officers & it councilors & you have proved without doubt the the wrecking crew led by Surjit Tour & his cohorts will do anything to stop the truth being made public & stop the S**T hitting the fan.I admire you for what you are trying to uncover but with this secretive bunch in Brighton Street I would not hold my breath.perhaps a request to Downing Street may force this council & its officers to reveal the truth. As Moulder & Scully used to say” The truth is out there” & no doubt your are the man to do it,Good Luck.
    Regards Jonathan Hardaker

  5. TrevR says:

    So, council staff are being gagged to prevent the truth from emerging, truth that should be revealed in the public interest.
    Did anyone, particularly the so call legal advisers that these employees consulted, tell the employees about Section 43J Employment Rights Act 1996 which effectively makes gagging clauses null and void in such circumstances?

  6. Pingback: Radio 5 Live Investigates – Settlement Agreements and Gagging Clauses | Wirral In It Together

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