£2.7m paid to Peterborough City Council staff using confidential legal agreements

Confidential legal agreements have been used by Peterborough City Council to pay departing staff £2.7 million in the last five years.

Sunday, 20th January 2019, 11:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:55 pm
Metro mayor James Palmer (left) with former combined authority chief executive Martin Whiteley, whose departure and pay-out has sparked debate

Figures revealed by the Peterborough Telegraph show that the council paid approximately £2.3 million in voluntary redundancy payments and £356,000 for mutually agreed terminations using 121 settlement agreements.

The use of settlement agreements has been topical after the chief executive of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Martin Whiteley was last year controversially paid £94,500 (nearly six months of his annual salary) to leave the mayoral body.

However, the council insisted that its staff which signed settlement agreements did not receive more money than they were contractually entitled to.

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A spokesman said: “Settlement agreements provide certainty for both the council and the employee in terms of their obligations and liabilities up to and following the conclusion of an employment contract on the grounds of voluntary redundancy.”

The mutually agreed terminations included people who were no longer able to work.

In responding to the PT’s Freedom of Information request the council refused to disclose how many other legal agreements had been signed with employees in the past five years as there were so few that it may identify the individuals involved.

Yet in a previous FOI the council revealed it had signed eight compromise agreements (for example over pay disputes) between 2014 and 2017 with a total payment just shy of £13,000.

Charlotte Davies from Greenwoods GRM, which has offices in Monkstone House, City Road, said: “Settlement agreements are an effective means of resolving workplace disputes or bringing an employment relationship to an end.

“They are commonly used by employers to ensure that any claims an employee might have against an employer, particularly upon termination of employment, are validly waived. In return for this, an employee will typically receive a payment over and above their legal entitlement.

“Since the abolition of fees in the Employment Tribunal in July 2017 it is now free for an employee or former employee to bring an employment claim against his or her employer.

“There is therefore value for an employer, even in situations where a termination is seemingly uncontentious, such as a voluntary redundancy, to achieve certainty and minimise the risk of having to defend costly and time-consuming employment claims by entering into a settlement agreement.”