MORE than £2.1 million has been spent on gagging orders by the scandal-hit council which spent more than £4 million on a row over senior officers' pay.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Caerphilly’s Plaid Cymru group found that confidentiality agreements, including legal fees, cost Caerphilly County Borough Council £2.124 million from 2014-15 to 2018-19.

In last two years has seen the cost of confidentiality agreements reach more than £1.1 million. Last year they cost the council £514,000 and the year before, £598,000.


In 2016-17 it was £384,000, in 2015-16 it was £265,000 and in 2014-15 it was £362,000.

The same council spent more than £4 million of taxpayers' money on a long-running row around pay rises given to senior officers, which only concluded in October when former chief executive Anthony O’Sullivan, who had been on paid leave for six-and-a-half-years, was sacked.

The council's head of people services, Lynne Donovan, is the only officer in the authority with the permission to sign off any confidentiality agreements, and must do so in the presence of a witness.

The response from Caerphilly council reveals that no councillors are involved in signing off non-disclosure agreements.

The leader of Plaid Cymru group at Caerphilly council, Cllr Colin Mann, said: “There is a need for a review about the operation of these agreements by the authority because of the large amount of public money involved which has risen rapidly over the past five years.

South Wales Argus:

Cllr Colin Mann

“Should, for instance, officers solely be involved in signing off agreements without any input from senior councillors?

“In my view there is need for greater transparency in the use of these agreements.”

The FOI also found that 32 staff left the council last year after signing confidentiality clauses, costing the council £282,000.

Of these, nine were under investigation or facing the potential of disciplinary action, and 21 staff were on sick leave at the time the agreement was signed.

A spokesman for the council said: “These types of settlement agreements are not uncommon, and many employers use them.

“Confidentiality clauses are standard in settlement agreements and relate to confidential or commercially sensitive information.

“This could, for example, include information that relates to clients, agents, suppliers, budgets or the provision of services etc.

“Where confidentiality is necessary to protect the privacy or other rights of an individual, mutual agreement is sought and enacted through the use of such agreements.”