More than £200,000 has been paid out by the county council to settle disputes with disgruntled employees this year – while it tries to make millions in budget cutbacks.
This year, Derbyshire County Council has made 21 settlement agreements with current and former employees in order to quash complaints, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
Importantly, these agreements do not stop employees from becoming whistle-blowers, unlike documents such as Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). Whistle-blowing is when an employee or former employee publicly raises complaints or seeks to uncover wrongdoings.
This year, the authority has signed off on 21 settlement agreements – to the tune of £217,269. Although these cases are strictly confidential and many details cannot be made public, information did show that the single largest payout in 2018 was £32,000. Meanwhile, the smallest payout was £319.
These agreements can include money paid out due to disputes over equality in the workplace, blacklisting of union members, payment failures, maternity or paternity pay problems and personal injury claims.
The county council had also been asked for the details of settlement agreements from 2017 and 2016. It had provided these, but when asked to comment on them, then stated that the 2017 figures were incorrect. A statement from the authority had not been received at the time of this article’s publication.
While the amount of money these agreements have cost the authority this year is small in comparison to the authority’s overall budget – £503 million – it does put added pressure on the council to find further savings, to reach £70 million in cutbacks by 2022, or face further financial perils. For example, the authority had been looking to make a cutback of £300,000 in the school crossing patrol service. It has since dropped this proposal, but this points towards the scale of savings which the authority must make and how settlement agreement payouts of this size may have an impact.
Meanwhile, it was previously reported that the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust, which includes Royal Derby Hospital and Queen’s Hospital in Burton, has paid out more than £80,000 in settlement agreements since 2016.