Alarm as Sheffield council ‘confidentiality’ agreements rise

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Sheffield Council has revealed an increase in the number of payouts for staff leaving subject to ‘compromise agreements’ in the last few years.

In 2011 almost £28,000 in compensation was paid - rising to £162,530 in 2012-13 – and many of the workers were asked to sign confidentiality clauses.

The figures cover council departments excluding schools.

Opposition Liberal Democrat councillors raised concern about confidentiality clauses, which the party’s finance spokesman, Coun Andrew Sangar, claimed were ‘gagging clauses’.

He said: “It’s hard to understand why so much has been spent keeping staff silent when services are facing the axe.”

But Rod Padley, branch secretary of trade union Unison, said compromise agreements are used for staff who put themselves forward for redundancy, avoiding managers having to choose who to axe.

He added that the rising number was a ‘symptom of council cutbacks’ and that most payouts were similar to general redundancy settlements and not in compensation for confidentiality.

A Sheffield Council spokeswoman added: “The council only enters into compromise agreements where it is in the organisation’s interest.”