‘Huge amount of taxpayers’ money’ used for gagging orders at East Devon council
- Credit: Alex Walton
Figures obtained using a Freedom of Information request show that East Devon District Council has spent more than £200,000 on gagging orders over the past four years.
A total of £205,074 has been spent by East Devon District Council on gagging orders for former members of staff since 2014, according to figures obtained by the Journal.
The information, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, reveals 10 settlement agreements, or gagging orders, were agreed by EDDC between 2014 and October 31, 2018.
Gagging orders are often referred to as confidentiality clauses and are usually agreed when an employee leaves an employer due to redundancy, a work place problem or a disagreement.
A number of opposition councillors have said they are shocked by the amount of money spent on gagging orders.
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Independent group leader at EDDC, Ben Ingham, said: “When any one of us is thinking about how we can afford to pay our latest council tax bill, I do not believe we expect one penny to be spent on gagging orders.
“If we did, non payment may become a real expectancy. As Leader of EDDC Opposition, I can tell you at no time has the current leadership contacted me to discuss this issue at all.
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“This is not acceptable, but to me not surprising. Merely another piece of evidence against an exhausted regime.”
A spokeswoman for EDDC said: “Settlement agreements are legally binding contracts that waive an individual’s rights to make a claim covered by the agreement to an employment tribunal or court.
“The agreement must be in writing. They usually include some form of payment to the employee and may often include a reference. They are voluntary and have therefore been entered into on that basis by the individuals.
“Part of the agreement is that they must seek independent advice from an employment lawyer.”
Exmouth district councillor Megan Armstrong said: “I am extremely concerned at the huge amount of taxpayers’ money, which should have been used to provide services for the people of East Devon, which has been spent on gagging orders.
“The council has a duty to be open and transparent; yet over £200,000 - a vast sum - has been spent on suppressing information. Exactly what is the Conservative administration trying to hide?”