A LEADING Wirral councillor has defended a decision to force more than 800 redundant staff to sign controversial compromise agreements.

The move has cost the taxpayer more than £62,500 since 2011.

As the council aimed to cut costs, it offered voluntary severance packages to its workforce.

More than 1,100 people left the authority - and 834 of them were obliged to sign the agreements, each one costing £75.

Conservative Cllr Jeff Green, who was council leader under a Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition in 2011 when the severances began, told the Globe: “When we were considering redundancies, I was advised by our head of legal and human resources that the best route would be to use compromise agreements.

“This would ensure that the redundancy terms were taken in full and final settlement with the council, and would protect the authority going forward.

“The £75 cost came about as I wanted each staff member to be given legal advice before signing.

“I also made it clear to the officers at the time that I did not want any ‘gagging clauses’ included.”

The current council leader, Labour Cllr Phil Davies, said: “I thought issuing all these compromise agreements was a bit OTT at the time.

“We raised it as an issue then, and we were never really given a clear answer.

"I sincerely hope there were not any gagging clauses in the agreements. I do not agree with them at all.

"The mass redundancies left a legacy of problems for which we are still paying the price today."

A council spokesman said: “Employees leaving the council under the terms of the voluntary severance or early voluntary retirement arrangements on offer at that time were asked to sign a standard compromise agreement.

"This was to mitigate the risk of any future employment claims arising from the process.

"These standard compromise contracts did not contain non-disclosure clauses and employees are free to speak about their time at the council.”

The practice was revealed through a Freedom of Information request from Wirral democracy campaigner Paul Cardin.

In April of this year, Seacombe resident Mr Cardin made national news when his FoI inquiries revealed almost 5,000 UK council workers and civil servants had been gagged at the taxpayers’ expense at a cost of up to £400,000 each.

The total cost for silencing public officials was an astonishing £14m.

In all 4,562 compromise agreements - many of which contained confidentiality clauses - had been signed by former staff, Mr Cardin’s survey discovered.

Compromise agreements:

A compromise agreement is a legally binding contract signed either during or following the termination of employment, bringing employment to an end.

It is recognised by law and is the only way for an employee to validly "contract out" of employment law rights.

It usually provides a severance payment, in return for which the employee agrees not to pursue any claim or grievance he or she may have in an employment tribunal.

For it be valid, staff must take independent legal advice from a lawyer and the employer will normally pay for the cost of this.

Some agreements include a "gagging clause" preventing the employee from disclosing confidential information obtained during their employment.

Last month, the National Audit Office warned such clauses risked stopping employees from speaking out about failures in the public sector.

Wirral Council chief executive Graham Burgess has told the Globe the authority has not used gagging orders since March of last year.