Council spending exceeds £200k on settlement deals
Total has already reached 40 this year
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.”