Hundreds of thousands spent on gagging orders at Lewisham Council

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From the article:

Well done @jrw!

Lewisham is a one-party system so residents rely on engaged individuals like you to challenge their decisions and processes.

Thanks for the time and effort you’ve taken to keep them honest.

I know you get grief and nastiness from other quarters, and just wanted to say that I respect and admire your tenacity and willingness to do the right thing despite the toll it must take on you personally.

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An inquiry is welcome but unless it’s independent I don’t think it’s going to set anyone’s mind at ease.

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Taking the data and reformatting it to add an average column:

image

This shows that the average payout has gone up only by about £1000 per payout, but that there are roughly double the payouts in 2019/20 compared to the previous year. There are also 4 payouts in the £60k to £100k brackets.

So one explanation may be that cuts have resulted in more staff being let go, possibly some at a more senior level, and hence payouts being made to quickly dispatch staff members without the formality of redundancy or performance management, looking for longer term savings. I’m not sure if some of the payments were for a voluntary redundancy scheme (perhaps ran in 2019/20, but not in 2018/19), or for compromise agreements.

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What isn’t mentioned is that 2018-2019 included £185k to pay off the brilliant CE, Ian Thomas, so was already an extremely high figure.

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But if you look at the bottom two tiers, in 2018/19 they were giving out on average £7k and £27.1k. In 2019/20 it was £8k and £26.0k - not much different. So the thing that really changed there was that the number of payouts doubled, rather than the amount of each one.

I still think there should be an investigation into the total rise, but it could be explained by something like a voluntary redundancy scheme, trying to save the council money in the long run. To be clear, I don’t know if Lewisham did or didn’t have a VR scheme in the 2019/20 year, but it wouldn’t surprise me given current funding.

TBH, I don’t know what the finer points of their concern are. My interest was cross-referencing the table with the NDA figures.

I do wonder how much concern was sparked by the audit committee passing a draft audit, and not being notified of substantial increases in these figure in the final audit being considered. They only spotted this after my NDA figures brought attention to the table. Were the core audit team fully briefed in good time?

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