Islington Council pays out £1.6million in staff ‘gagging agreements’

Councillor Terry Stacy

Councillor Terry Stacy - Credit: Archant

than £1.6million in “gagging orders” have been paid out to civil servants in Islington – including council staff, housing officers and schoolteachers.

Figures seen by the Gazette reveal that 132 compromise agreements – worth a total of £1,646,663.21 – have been paid out to employees of Islington Council and the organisations that run its housing and education departments since April 2010.

The largest single settlement was £80,093, which was paid out to a council worker, while the lowest – £1,000 – went to a member of staff in an Islington school.

But the nature of a compromise agreement – where a member of staff agrees to a severance payment in return for leaving quietly without going to an employment tribunal – means the reasons this money has been paid out will never be known.

In general, almost all compromise agreements also include confidentiality clauses that prevent the employer from speaking out.

The figures have prompted concerns that council taxpayers’ money is being used to stifle worries about the way the borough is being run, with Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat opposition, saying it was “outrageous” that so much money has been spent on “what are effectively gagging agreements”.

He said: “We are told constantly that there is no money for local projects or good causes. Yet they can find the money to pay off ‘problem staff’ to the tune of thousands of pounds. They are just buying their silence.

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“Because the revelations might be embarrassing to the council, they want to avoid going to an employment tribunal, where they could end up coughing up the same amount but also end up with high legal costs and bad publicity.”

Of the 132 compromise agreements, 34 were paid out by Islington Council, 20 by Homes for Islington and 78 by Cambridge Education to school staff.

Cllr Richard Greening, executive member for finance on the Labour-run council, denied that the compromise agreements were being used to stop whistleblowing.

He said they were merely a way of saving money, given that the council is having to make £100million in cuts between 2011 and 2015.

He said: “These are cases where people have raised grievances against the council and have contemplated taking us to employment tribunal. A compromise agreement saves a lot of time and money. Employment tribunals are incredibly expensive processes.

“I don’t think Islington has spent more money than any other council on this.”

The council added that of 34 compromise agreements, 21 were because the member of staff was being made redundant, only a small number were because of grievances and none was related to whistleblowing.

Since May 2010, the council has been forced to make 379 people redundant.