Gagging costs at Suffolk County Council equal to meals on wheels

PAY-OFFS offered to former staff at Suffolk County Council to ensure they remained tight-lipped after leaving the authority, have already cost the tax payer more than �400,000 since January.

In the first 12 weeks of this year, there were 13 compromise agreements approved by officials at the authority, according to the response to a Freedom of Information request. These cost a combined �405,665.

Compromise agreements are legal documents signed by people leaving their employment.

The staff involved are usually offered an extra payment or pay in lieu of notice, but to qualify they must agree not to take further action or disclose the details – hence their being known as 'gagging agreements'.

All 13 deals were signed between January 13 and April 5 this year – before the council's chief executive Andrea Hill went on extended leave – but the council has refused to reveal who signed off these gagging agreements, who they applied to and how much the individual deals were worth.

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The cost of the agreements is equal to the sum needed to subside the meals on wheels service for a year.

Last year, 41 former employees were offered a total sum of �521,000 as they left their posts, and these ranged from �1,464 paid to 'Employee Four' and �60,000 handed to 'Employee 31'.

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The average cost of these was �12,700 while this year's average is a hugely inflated �31,200.

Opposition leader Kathy Pollard said she was shocked to hear how the costs of compromise agreements had soared.

She said: 'I think the administration needs to review what is happening with human resources at the county council because this kind of expenditure cannot continue.'

However, council spokesman Andrew St Ledger said the authority did 'everything it can to keep employment-related costs to a minimum' and stressed: 'Such agreements are used sparingly and almost always include items such as pay in lieu of notice'.

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