Sunderland workers ‘not gagged’, claims council boss

Councillor Harry Trueman
Councillor Harry Trueman
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MORE than 530 ex-workers from Sunderland City Council have signed compromise agreements preventing them from discussing the terms of their departure.

However, council bosses today said they “do not use gagging orders” and their policy was no different to hundreds of other civic authorities across the UK.

The 536 staff who agreed to leave the council last autumn were all asked to sign the agreements.

Such orders have come under scrutiny after figures revealed authorities across the UK had signed 4,562 similar agreements with former employees. Most contain confidentiality clauses.

Eric Pickles, Local Government Secretary, has criticised council efforts to “gag” former workers, keeping settlements private from the taxpayer, and last month, the Government banned the orders for NHS employees after it emerged £18million had been spent on silencing 600 staff.

Councillor Harry Trueman, deputy leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “On the occasions when we use compromise agreements with departing employees, both parties agree to keep the agreement and the terms of the agreement confidential, but the agreements contain nothing that would prevent an ex-employee from raising any legitimate concerns about the organisation, as was alleged in the health service.”

The number of confidentiality agreements issued by councils in the UK rose six-fold in the five years from 2005 and 2010, from 179 in 2005 to 1,027.