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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Gagging orders

This headline in the Independent is a bit misleading because the vast majority of the officials who have left employment subject to gagging orders are local government officers and therefore not civil servants. Nevertheless it is a disturbing trend and the idea that pay-offs amounting to £14 million of public money have been made to 200 staff in Whitehall and 4,562 in local authorities on the condition that they do not talk publicly about problems with their previous employer does not instill confidence in the system.

For once I agree with Eric Pickles when he says that "For too long, local government has made departing staff sign gagging orders, often with big pay-offs attached, away from the eyes of those who get left with the bill: the taxpayer.

"When leaving a job councils and their employees need to part ways fairly. Giving out thousands in under-the-counter pay-offs to silence departing staff is not the way to achieve this.

"Councils have a responsibility to the public and transparency is at the heart of that. By shining a light on these activities and introducing new democratic checks and balances to stop gagging orders being abused we are helping councils improve accountability in local government."

Perhaps it is worth finding out how many Councils and other public bodies in Wales follow this practice.
It would also be interesting to know whether Bradford City Council imposed any gagging orders when Eric Pickles was in charge there.

That's a good point by Frank H Little.

I carried out the original survey of 345 English councils and queried between 2005 and 2010, so quite a while after Pickles had left.

However, Bradford City Council were extremely shy and appeared to misunderstand (deliberately?) the request I placed (the only council of the 345 to do so). Ultimately, despite appealing to the Information Commissioner, I never got the information; the council pleaded a costs exemption and they're still sitting on it.

Here's a link to the full survey:

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