Two Teesside councils have spent more than £650,000 of taxpayers’ cash on keeping ex-staff from claiming against them in the past three years.

Stockton Council has spent £468,570.64 on 44 “compromise agreements” with departing staff since 2015/16.

One former employee received £44,784.68 in 2017/18 after reaching a deal.

While Redcar and Cleveland Council has agreed £189,285.75 be paid out with 22 of its ex-employees since 2015.

Compromise agreements can have confidentiality orders attached and are usually struck up when an employee facing redundancy or workplace issues leaves.

Under the deals, also known as “settlement agreements”, an employer asks the employee to sign on the line in return for a pay-off.

STATISTIC BREAKDOWN

Stockton Town Hall

The data was released following a freedom of information (FOI) request to four Teesside authorities.

In Stockton, there have been six payouts of more than £20,000 since 2015 and nine agreements of between £10,000 and £20,000 reached.

Stockton Council compromise agreements:

2015/16 – £212,135.75

2016/17 – £115,849.38

2017/18 – £140,585.51

Redcar and Cleveland Community HeartRedcar and Cleveland Community Heart
Redcar and Cleveland Community Heart (Image: James Cain)

At Redcar and Cleveland Council, one agreement came in at more than £20,000 in 2017 with seven payments between £10,000 and £20,000 over the three year period.

Redcar and Cleveland Council compromise agreements:

2015 – £60,917.84

2016 – £57,615.45

2017 – £70,752.46

However, compromise agreements from authority-run schools were omitted from the Redcar and Cleveland figures provided – as the council “did not hold data relating to schools which have become academies”.

WHAT DID THE COUNCILS SAY?

A spokeswoman for Stockton Council said: “Like many employers the council occasionally uses compromise agreements as an efficient and effective way of mutually agreeing an end to employment.

“The council will only enter into a settlement agreement after careful consideration, and when it is appropriate to do so – for example in some redundancy situations or when the council and employee both recognise that it is unlikely that the employee is going to be able to return to work after a period of ill health.

“As a large employer with 3,000 members of staff these figures show we use these agreements sparingly.

“All payments are subject to legal and external scrutiny, and are only authorised when they are considered to be value for money and in the public interest.”

A spokesman for Redcar and Cleveland Council said the council “did not enter into settlement agreements lightly” and only did so when it “presents a cost-effective solution to particular circumstances”.

He added: “The level of the payment made in each case reflects the level of legal risk to the council but, in general terms, the substantial part of most payments consists of contractual or statutory entitlements which would have to be paid by the council whether a settlement agreement was used or not.

“In some cases, a settlement agreement is clearly a more efficient way of resolving employment issues rather than entering into potentially lengthy management procedures and also provides certainty for both the council and the employee.”

WHAT ABOUT OTHER AUTHORITIES?

Middlesbrough Council did not release details of compromise agreements it had reached with its staff.

When asked, its FOI team said “110 individual electronic records and paper records” would have to be located and retrieved to compile all of the data requested – which exceeded the financial constraints of Freedom of Information requests.

The Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) said there had been no compromise agreements reached with any of its staff in the past three years.

© 2018 Tees Info

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