Brent Council defended its payouts to former staff members after the latest data showed it spent more than half a million pounds on settlement agreements last year.

Analysis by the Taxpayers’ Alliance showed the council spent £516,151 on reaching 13 agreements with ex-employees.

A spokesperson for the council explained that settlements are often agreed so all parties know where they stand and to prevent spiralling costs.

She said: “The council may enter into a settlement agreement, about the ending of an individual’s employment, to provide a mutually acceptable outcome and avoid protracted and costly legal disputes.

“In each case, a settlement provides certainty for the council and the employee.”

Brent spent the fourth-biggest amount overall in London and was the 10th-highest in the country among local authorities that provided data for 2018/19.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council spent the most on settlements last year – coughing up around £1.48 million – and had the highest individual pay out at over £195,000.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance noted the sometimes-complex nature of settlement agreements, but also highlighted the financial difficulties faced by councils that are affecting public services.

Darwin Friend, researcher at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Though settlement agreements are sometimes necessary, councils need to remember that it’s ratepayers who foot the bill.

“These settlements have been signed at the same time that the vast majority of local authorities have increased council tax, meaning some have spent huge sums on hush money while hiking up local rates.

“Given that almost 50 councils have managed to spend nothing on these deals, it should be perfectly possible for those paying the most to do better and keep down the costs of individual golden goodbyes.”

Earlier this month, Brent Council approved a budget for next year that includes a council tax increase of 3.99 per cent and more than £7 million worth of cuts.