Council spends £312,169 of taxpayers’ cash on gagging orders

Chichester District Council's current headquarters in East Pallant. Picture: Google Maps/Google Streetview
Chichester District Council's current headquarters in East Pallant. Picture: Google Maps/Google Streetview

More than £312,000 has been spent on gagging orders by Chichester District Council in the last ten years, the Observer can reveal.

The six compromise agreements – commonly known as ‘gagging orders’ because they offer payment to outgoing employees in return for confidentiality – include a staggering £174,384 paid to one individual.

James Price from the Taxpayers' Alliance criticised the council's use of gagging orders

James Price from the Taxpayers' Alliance criticised the council's use of gagging orders

A total of £312,169 was spent on the silence agreements in the last decade, nearly 14 times the average annual salary for people working in Chichester (£22,624).

James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers in Chichester have already faced a 72 per cent increase in council tax over the past twenty years, well above the national average, to no obvious improvement in services.

“Now they are seeing yet another area where their money is being squandered and will rightly be very upset.

“The notion that councils can use taxpayers’ cash for this is deeply wrong and should be stopped immediately.”

The last of the six gagging orders was issued in the 2014-15 financial year, with the largest issued in 2009-10, our Freedom of Information request revealed.

A spokesman for Chichester District Council said: “Any use of settlement agreements (previously compromise agreements) is in line with the ACAS code of practice.

“None of these staff worked with children or other vulnerable groups.

“In recent years we have had to make significant savings which has involved restructuring.

“The amount for 2009–10 was entirely made up of the cost of the early access to pension for the individual involved, who did not receive any direct payment under this agreement.

“This settlement agreement was part of a restructure at senior management level that resulted in significant long-term savings to the council of more than £300,000 per year.

“This saving excludes the one-off costs of the restructure, including the early access to pension costs. The post concerned was not replaced in the new structure.”

Asked why there had not been any fresh gagging orders issued since 2014-15, the spokesman said there had been no cases that justified the use of such agreements.

Full breakdown:

- 2008-09: £ 66,738.00

- 2009-10: £174,384.00

- 2011-12: £8,029.00

- 2012-13: £26,150

- 2014-15: £18,434 (total for two orders)

Do you think the use of the money was justified? We want to hear from you.

Email your views to michael.drummond@jpress.co.uk.