Yesterday the Telegraph ran a story that gained a lot of attention about local councils and the use of Compromise Agreements.
These often contain ‘gagging orders’ stopping disgruntled ex-employees from speaking publicly about their observations while employed.
OnTheWight have, for some time, been researching their use by the Isle of Wight council.
Gagging the whistle-blowers
In recent weeks with discussions of NHS whistleblowers, the use of gagging orders have been widely condemned.
During a period of job cuts and staff restructuring, OnTheWight believes details of Compromise Agreements that have been issued by the Isle of Wight council is in the public interest.
We (again) had difficulty gaining access to the information that we requested from IWC.
The information that we can share with you now covers the last three calendar years
Two compromise agreements were made in 2010
Eight compromise agreements were made in 2011
Six compromise agreements were made in 2012
The pursuit of how much this has cost is discussed below.
Telegraph highlight £14m gagging order bill
The Telegraph report (featuring research by Paul Cardin – himself gagged by a Compromise Agreement) revealed that “almost 5,000 council workers and civil servants have been gagged at taxpayers’ expense at a cost of up to £400,000 each”.
In their report, The Telegraph spoke to a former council worker (not IWC) turned whistle-blower, Martin Morton, who’d raised concerns with the Local Authority he worked for about the abuse of vulnerable people. The council offered him a £45,000 Compromise Agreement, but insisted that he did not speak to the press.
Mr Morton told The Telegraph,
“Local Authorities are seemingly keen that people sign Compromise Agreements because of the prevalence of them, including gagging clauses, because a lot of them have got a lot to hide. It’s covering up bad practice. Covering up a waste of public money.”
David Pugh and the cost of gagging orders?
A member of the public on the Island has been attempting to find out how much tax-payers’ money has been spent on Compromise Agreements. He has, despite a commitment from IWC leader Cllr David Pugh, not received any of the details.
During the February Cabinet meeting, Newport resident, Steven Goodman – prompted by the imminent early departure of Chief Executive Steve Beynon – asked how much taxpayers’ money had been spent on Compromise Agreements during the current administration.
Leader of the council David Pugh replied that a written response would be provided.
Seven weeks later Mr Goodman is still not in receipt of the figures.
Using public money to silence people
The Telegraph interviewee, Mr Morton, believes that whistle-blowing should be seen as an asset, but argues that,
“It’s seen as a threat and a challenge to organisations such as Local Authorities who do not want to address some of those issues.
“It’s much easier to use public money to silence people.”