Almost £2m paid out in leaving deals by Lincolnshire County Council
A local authority paid out almost £2 million to employees leaving their posts over three years.
Lincolnshire County Council spent £1.83 million on compromise agreements between April 2009 and September 2012.
On average, the council put pen to paper on a compromise deal nearly every two weeks.
A total of 78 agreements were made – with 50 of those employees working in schools.
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The average payment to an employee was £23,566 and the highest cost of a compromise agreement was £103,750.
David O'Connor, executive of performance and governance at the council, said: "There is a common misconception that compromise agreements are all very large but that isn't the case as shown by the fact that our smallest in the period in question cost just £1. Compromise agreements are a standard part of employment law in all sectors of the economy that are strictly controlled.
"For example, the employee is required to provide evidence that they have received independent legal advice.
"All compromise agreements are overseen by our internal governance, our audit committee and our external auditors.
"There have been 78 compromise agreements in the council. Of these, 50 of 78 were for school-based employees.
"Half of all agreements were in 2011-12 when the council reduced its workforce by more than 1,200."
But politicians and the Taxpayer's Alliance claim compromise agreements are, in effect, gagging orders.
The leader of the opposition at Lincolnshire County Council, Marianne Overton, said: "This figure is worrying.
"There is this worrying trend at Lincolnshire County Council moving towards secret staff pay-offs where gagging clauses are signed with staff.
"Public money is paid to staff to give up their employment rights and leave suddenly, often without even a word to colleagues, returning after dark to collect their things.
"The reasons for 'compromise' agreements are not explained to councillors who are normally trusted with the most highly confidential information.
"This is a shocking lack of transparency overseen by the Conservative administration."
There were 22 agreements during the financial year of 2009-10 and 11 between 2010 and April 2011. There was a spike of 25 deals between April and September 2011.
Between October 2011 and September 2012, 20 agreements were made.
Robert Oxley, from the Taxpayers' Alliance, has urged County Hall to become more transparent
He said: "This is an incredible amount of money spent on, effectively, keeping taxpayers in the dark over goings on at Lincolnshire County Council.
"Local duties have a duty to be open and transparent about how they spend taxpayers' money and these agreements go against the very principle of that.
"The secretive nature of these arrangements means there is little assurance for residents that their cash is not being spent covering up failings or wrongdoing.
"A culture of openness is urgently needed at County Hall."