UPDATED: New figures for Wirral Council’s compromise agreements and gagging clauses

24th November 2013

Update on this story here.  Wirral Council have been concealing the truth once again…

7th August 2013

PLEASE NOTE: I’ll put a tenner down here and now that Wirral Council’s definition of a gagging clause differs to mine.  At some point I may need a definitive verdict on the precise terminology.  There seem to be many unhelpful contradictions…

The following information entered the public domain yesterday, 6th August 2013.  The release came from Wirral Council’s Information Governance team.  It looks like the Freedom of Information request was originally lodged around February 2013, taking several months to finally be answered.

Here’s a link to the info laid out below…  FOI 641142 – Compromise Agreements V4

As far as I see it, the phrase ‘confidentiality clause’, which was coined by those wanting to occupy the shadows and evade proper scrutiny, is a euphemistic term for a ‘gagging clause’.

In reality, dispensed with employees are crudely and very effectively gagged by confidentiality clauses (Gagging Clauses). And through the wielding of threatening penalty clauses, aimed at clawing back severance money should people breach their agreements, scurrilous, black as soot reputations are granted wholly undeserved protection.

The Information

Questions are in bold / answers are in red:

Compromise Agreements

1) Model compromise agreements and confidentiality clauses, as used by
Wirral Council.

The Council does not have a model compromise agreement or confidentiality clause.  The Council has instructed its legal advisors not to include ‘gagging’ clauses in compromise agreements.

2) The number of compromise agreements Wirral Council signed in each
month of 2011, 2012 and 2013 (up to February 2013).

Please see table below.

3) The number of those compromise agreements, each month, which included
a confidentiality clause.

Please see table below.

4) Dates of, and a list of attendees at each meeting at which the use of
confidentiality clauses (in individual cases as well as in principle) was
approved.

The Council has not held meetings where the use of a confidentiality clause has been approved.

5) Minutes of meetings where confidentiality clauses were approved. Please
state clearly if minutes were not taken in those meetings

The Council has not held meetings where the use of a confidentiality clause has been approved.

Let’s analyse some of the above statements…

  • “The council has instructed its legal advisers not to include gagging clauses in compromise agreements”

It would be very handy to know WHEN this instruction was handed down.  We know it happened after G Burgess arrived, but obviously not soon enough to prevent the 2nd declared gagging clause admitted to below.  I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it happened in March 2013, the month after the 2nd declared one was used.

  • “The council has not held meetings where the use of a confidentiality clause has been approved”

The only safe assumption to reach here is that NO meeting of councillors scrutinised or approved the inclusion of any gagging clauses – and the payment of god knows what sums in public money!  And if no meetings were called to scrutinise or approve them, what a scam!  It must have been the hidden, back-office work of a legal officer or a legal “team”, keen to carry out the dirty work and protect their employer’s reputation (similar to what happened when Cheshire West & Chester sought to ban me from making Freedom of Information and Data Protection requests).

So what happened to scrutiny?  It seems to be very much a distant pipedream on Wirral.

Here’s the table:

Please note: The Council used a basic compromise agreement for a large scale voluntary redundancy/early voluntary retirement exercise.Wirral table gags and CAs

Conclusions:

  • One gagging clause came in June 2012.  I’m going to assume this was granted to former CEO Jim Wilkie…  but granted by whom?  By himself…?  By Bill Norman…? …the now departed Director of Law who was paid £151,000  …but paid by whom?  By himself…?  Sorry, I’ll stop it now… this could get very messy
  • One gagging clause came in February this year.  I’ll have to go away and consult my extensive records and find out who left that month…
  • Two people left in January 2012, the month that the full Anna Klonowski report was published.  They will be Noone and Fowler, the Social Services senior officers (Employee 13 and Employee 22 are their protecting digits in the redacted report – which remains redacted three years on).  Are the council actually telling us that they weren’t gagged?  Looks like it…
  • 834 redundancies.  The council stated above: “Please note: The Council used a basic compromise agreement for a large scale voluntary redundancy/early voluntary retirement exercise.” Well, in my book, a compromise agreement is a compromise agreement is a compromise agreement.  If they applied them to these redundancies, the actual total should be 845.
  • The public now need to know whether 834 compromise agreements were issued (market price = £250 to £300) or was it a smaller number, one for each tranche?  Or was it one CA for all 834?  Can they do that?
  • I (and probably many, many members of the Wirral public) also want to know whether the recipients had any special instructions to follow concerning who they could speak to regarding the circumstances of their departure (which constitutes a gagging clause).  So did all 834 redundancies have a gagging clause?

Can anybody shine any more light on this? Please email info@easyvirtualassistance.co.uk if you can…

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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