Councillors consider ban on controversial gagging orders after NCP saga

NCP formerly operated multi-storey car parks in Worthing town centre
NCP formerly operated multi-storey car parks in Worthing town centre

‘MORALLY unethical’ gagging orders could be banned by councillors tonight (Tuesday, October 15).

Worthing Borough Council came under criticism in 2014 after details of a financial settlement with parking giants NCP were made confidential.

Councillor Tom Wye

Councillor Tom Wye

It meant taxpayers’ were not told how much of their money had been lost in settling the dispute, arising out of a contractual error.

Tonight, Tarring councillor Tom Wye, who resigned in protest over the gagging order but was re-elected in May, will argue in favour of banning the confidentiality clauses altogether.

A motion to be considered by full council reads: “It is morally unethical, poor practice and indefensible to allow gagging orders or confidentiality clauses to be used to conceal facts or restrict transparency when any public body is settling legal disputes with third party contractors that involve public or taxpayer monies.

“In such circumstances, we believe that the people who are paying the bills have every right to know how much they have to pay and the reason they have to pay it.”

The motion is seconded by leader Dan Humphreys and if accepted, would put on record the council’s stance that gagging orders ‘will not be tolerated’. It adds: “All members and officers involved with the dispute are instructed that this council will not accept a gagging order as part of any such settlement.”

The meeting will take place at Worthing Town Hall, in Chapel Road, from 6.30pm.

Also on the agenda is discussion on chief executive Alex Bailey’s potential £11,000 pay rise, audio recording of council meetings and increased public speaking time at planning meetings.