‘Deeply worrying’ – Doncaster Council paid over £750,000 for staff gagging orders

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Doncaster Council paid out thousands of pounds to 29 members of staff to keep quiet about their former employment. 

Bosses handed out gagging orders to the former staff members at a total cost of £755,000.

The move has been criticised by a campaign group who said councils using taxpayers cash ‘to stop failings coming to light’ is ‘deeply worrying’. 

Gagging orders are better known in legal terms as confidentiality clauses. They are usually agreed when an employee leaves an employer, having been made redundant or after a disagreement or issue in the workplace.

Most compromise agreements also include confidentiality clauses. These bar employees from talking publically or to the press about their former employer of the circumstances under which they left.

The figure includes a gagging order and other payments such as redundancy and unpaid holiday. 

Statistics from a Freedom of Information request show 29 members of staff signed a confidentiality clause from 2013/2014 to 2017/2018. 

The majority came from children’s services at 11, seven from the regeneration and environment office, six from corporate services and five from adult social care. 

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "The notion that councils can use taxpayers’ cash to prevent their mistakes and failings from coming to light is deeply wrong. 

"Council tax in Doncaster has gone up by more than 50 per cent in real terms in 20 years; now we can see where some of that money has been going.

"This spending should be stopped immediately and council officials should remember that they are there to serve residents, not hide the truth from them.”

Debbie Hogg, director of corporate resources, said: “As with other public organisations, on occasion we may enter into settlement agreements with staff to resolve employment related issues. Agreements are entered into voluntarily and allow people to leave on mutually-agreed terms.

“The majority of the payments made include redundancy costs and for leave that is owed, all of which individuals are entitled to under the terms of their employment contracts.”