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Bromley Council spends almost £950,000 over five years paying off ex-staff

PUBLISHED: 17:50 12 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:50 12 July 2018

Bromley Civic Centre. Photo: Steve Poston

Bromley Civic Centre. Photo: Steve Poston

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Nearly £950K has been spent on pay-offs for ex-Bromley Council staff in the past five years, new figures have revealed.

Settlement agreements, which can involve non-disclosure clauses, are usually struck up when an employee facing redundancy or workplace issues leaves.

Under the agreements – which were formally known as compromise agreements – an employer asks the employee to sign on the line in return for a pay-off.

In the past five years, Bromley has entered into 66 compromise agreements with staff or former staff – an average of 13 agreements a year, an FoI has revealed.

All of those 66 agreements require staff members not to disclose the existence of the agreement itself – with the council saying it is necessary for legal purposes for the agreements to have non-disclosure clauses because they contain sensitive information.

The council refused to provide individual figures as it could “potentially breach confidentiality”, but did detail how much has been spent annually.

2013: £62,195.47

2014: £239,288

2015: £168,209.42

2016: £148,800.08

2017: £246, 063.73

2018 ( January to June) £ 70, 455.58

GRAND TOTAL 2013 – 2018: £935,012.28

Settlement agreements are often seen as controversial because under the Public Interest Disclosure Act whistle-blowers are supposed to be protected.

The money is handed over under legal contracts in which the departing worker receives an increased pay-off in return for promising not to challenge their departure in a court or tribunal and not to talk about it in the media.

In neighbouring Bexley, 55 staff have been paid off since 2014, with the council shelling out £800K on agreements.

In response to our FoI request, a Bromley Council spokesman said:“Payments to staff who leave the council due to redundancy or a workplace issue are a matter of record in our annual accounts which are uploaded to our website.

“As stated in our response to your questions 4 and 5 in particular these have nothing to do with whistleblowing, none of our agreements are as a result of an employee reporting wrong-doing. Our policy is clear – we want people to be alert to any potential situations that may undermine the council’s business and to speak out to management and be protected from any retribution.

“Put simply, the council has not entered into a compromise or settlement agreement, or made a payment to any employee on the back of the employee(s) raising a whistleblowing allegation(s). On the contrary the council has a good track record of following our whistleblowing procedure and the provisions under the Public Disclosure Interest Act 198 (amendment 2013), and where appropriate the council has successfully refuted and defended such allegations in the employment tribunal.

“The council has never lost a whistleblowing claim in the employment tribunal. Our staff are aware of our procedure and they have confidence in our zero tolerance approach to malpractices.

“Where whistleblowing allegations of malpractices have been proven, staff have been disciplined and dismissed following a due process of course.

“The use of compromise or settlement agreements is a commercial and legal consideration following a careful litigation/financial risk assessment on a case by case basis. As in any contract the agreements will include a confidentiality clause not a gagging or non-disparage clause(s) partly at the request of the individuals and their solicitors. This is a standard legal practice, consistent with the Data Protection/GDPR principles.”

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