Coun­cil spend­ing ex­ceeds £200k on set­tle­ment deals

To­tal has al­ready reached 40 this year

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Ren­frew­shire Coun­cil has de­fended its use of set­tle­ment agree­ments – which gags ex- staff from speak­ing out – af­ter it was con­firmed 40 have been signed this year.

The fig­ure is five times that of the num­ber of agree­ments made in 2017, it has been re­vealed fol­low­ing a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest.

A set­tle­ment agree­ment is a type of con­tract where an em­ployee agrees they will not make claims against their em­ployer in re­turn for cash and won’t talk pub­licly about the mat­ter.

The lo­cal au­thor­ity reached 40 agree­ments with staff and ex-staff in 2018, eight in 2017 and 14 the year be­fore that.

It also con­firmed the to­tal amount of cash spent on agree­ments over those three years amounted to £210,490.37.

How­ever, it re­fused to de­tail how much was spent each year and in each in­di­vid­ual case as it would “risk breach­ing con­fi­den­tial­ity and iden­ti­fy­ing the party in­volved”.

A spokes­woman for the coun­cil said: “We have a strong track record in pro­vid­ing a sup­port­ive, wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment for all our staff, en­abling them to play their part in cre­at­ing a thriv­ing Ren­frew­shire.

“Set­tle­ment agree­ments are of­ten used by par­ties to deal with changes to terms and con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment and the vast ma­jor­ity of th­ese cases re­late to re­solv­ing con­trac­tual mat­ters for ex­ist­ing em­ploy­ees, where the em­ploy­ees and em­ployer wish con­fi­den­tial­ity.”

When asked whether the agree­ments were an ef­fec­tive use of pub­lic money, the coun­cil said its strong fi­nan­cial man­age­ment had been recog­nised by watch­dogs.

The spokes­woman added: “Au­dit Scot­land have recog­nised our ro­bust fi­nan­cial man­age­ment and our com­mit­ment to mak­ing ef­fec­tive use of pub­lic money.”

Fi­nance man­ager Lisa Dickie briefed coun­cil­lors on the lo­cal au­thor­ity’s use of pub­lic money at the most re­cent Au­dit, Risk and Scru­tiny Board.

She ex­plained it had been recog­nised for ef­fec­tive fi­nan­cial man­age­ment and “a bud­get process fo­cused on the coun­cil’s strate­gic pri­or­i­ties”.

Ms Dickie also dis­missed the pos­si­bil­ity of a fi­nan­cial melt­down, sim­i­lar to that of Northamp­ton­shire County Coun­cil which has gath­ered me­dia at­ten­tion.

“We have got ro­bust fi­nan­cial con­trols in place,” she said. “I have been here many years and we’ve never been ex­posed to any­thing near it.”

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