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A leading local government solicitor has called on the Labour Party to make public the costs of confidential legal ...
A leading local government solicitor has called on the Labour Party to make public the costs of confidential legal settlements agreed with council officers.

Stefan Cross, a partner with law firm Thompsons, made the call after LGC revealed that Broadland DC had warned members they faced surcharging if they disclosed details of an agreement with former chief executive John Bryant (LGC, 4 August).

Mr Cross said: 'Unfortunately this practice is not confined to Broadland DC but is entirely the norm in dealing with employment-related disputes.'

Mr Bryant had agreed to take early retirement and drop harassment allegations against five councillors. In return, the council agreed not to pursue disciplinary action against him.

Labour members raised concerns about the suspected level of Mr Bryant's settlement, and complained it did not allow those accused to clear their names.

Head of Labour's local government unit Howard Knight last week said council tax payers were entitled to an explanation of the costs of the decision, but has since denied he wants to see confidential information disclosed.

Mr Knight said: 'The point was not about confidential information but other issues in the public domain.'

Mr Cross cited seven Labour-controlled councils where he had been involved in settlements, claiming members had not been informed of the details.

'I would be delighted if Mr Knight was to issue instructions to all Labour councils that such arrangements should not be confidential and local taxpayers should be entitled to know the sums being paid out in damages and costs in such disputes,' he said.

Mr Knight was unavailable for comment.

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