Eric Pickles condemns 'under-the counter pay-offs' as £14m bill for gagging orders for 5,000 axed civil servants is revealed

200 staff in Whitehall and 4,562 in local authorities signed 'compromise agreements'

Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, today warned council chiefs not to resort to “under-the-counter pay-offs” to buy the silence of departing staff after it emerged nearly that up to 5,000 public servants have been granted severance payments in recent years, many involving gagging orders.

According to freedom of information replies, more than 200 staff in Whitehall and 4,562 in local authorities had signed “compromise agreements”. The sums involved could be more than £400,000 for senior employees.

The Daily Telegraph puts the total cost of Whitehall severance payouts at £14m.

The figures emerged a month after the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, outlawed the use of gagging orders which prevented NHS staff raising the alarm about poor patient care.

According to the Freedom of Information survey, 256 councils signed 4,562 compromise agreements with former staff between 2005 and 2010, most of which are understood to have included “gagging orders”.

The number of confidentially agreements issued by councils soared from 179 in 2005 to 1,027 in 2010. Brighton & Hove City Council 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 £2.6 million.

The Treasury has signed agreements with 64 individuals at a cost of £2.5m, 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 £1.5m, the Ministry of Justice signed 15 at a cost of £250,000, while the Foreign Office spent £5.5m on compensation agreements.

Mr Pickles claimed new checks and balances would help stop gagging orders being abused.

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.”

The FOI requests were submitted by Paul Cardin, a former lighting engineer at Cheshire West and Chester Council. He was prohibited from even making FOI requests under the terms of his compromise agreement.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power