Clarity on details of John Kane's departure from Northamptonshire CC/LGSS

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Northamptonshire County Council should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear Northamptonshire County Council,

Background

On the LGSS website, a blog entry dated 15th February 2018 announced John Kane’s decision to retire from his post of LGSS Managing Director, and the appointment of Sarah Homer as interim LGSS Managing Director to begin on Monday February 12th (three days before the blog was published).

The draft 2017/18 financial statements for LGSS for 2017/18 contain the following Note on Officer Remuneration:

“The LGSS Managing Director left the organisation on 31 March 2018. Compensation for loss of office comprised of £30,400 compromise agreement and £32,500 pay in lieu of notice.”

The Officer Remuneration Note shows that the above emoluments came on top of Mr Kane’ £152,000 basic salary for 2017/18, which had risen by £17,000 (12.6%) on 2016/17. The loss of office payments are inconsistent with the 15th February blog in many ways. The inconsistencies and other observations are listed below:

1) When an employee decides to take early retirement, no compensation for loss of office is owed. This is confirmed in Section 7 of the NCC/LGSS’s Early Retirement Redundancy policy document which can be found at https://www3.northamptonshire.gov.uk/cou.... A redundancy payment is only due if the employee is retiring early due to redundancy. That is not the case with Mr Kane, who was succeeded by another managing director. The LGSS blog states that Mr Kane decided to take himself out of office.

2) Sarah Homer joined LGSS on Feb 12th as an interim replacement for Mr Kane. This means Mr Kane must have announced his decision to retire some time before February 12th, to give the three owner authorities sufficient time to advertise for a replacement and conduct a proper and transparent procurement process. It is hard to see how this could have been completed in compliance with the procurement rules in less than two weeks at a minimum. Two weeks lead time would put Mr Kane’s decision to retire at January 29th 2018 at the very latest. That would be two months before we are told he left LGSS – on March 31st.

3) Notice periods are not usually longer than three months. Three months’ pay based on Mr Kane’s 2017/18 salary of £152,000 is £38,000. On this calculation the “pay in lieu” component of his settlement would equate to around eleven weeks (32.5/38 x 13 weeks). For Mr Kane to have worked the two months to March 31st, received his full salary for those two months AND received eleven weeks’ pay “in lieu of notice” would suggest his full notice period was at least 21 weeks, or around five months.

4) If Mr Kane worked until 31st March 2018, then for two months the parent authorities were paying for two managing directors. The available information puts the cost at around £70,480, or £8,300 per week ((152+22)/6 for Mr Kane, £41,480 for Ms Homer).

5) Seven weeks (12th Feb to 30th March) is an exceptionally long handover period to pass the baton from one director to another, especially at the above estimated weekly cost. Most employees who receive pay in lieu of notice leave more or less immediately, not part way through a notice period. Section 6 of the NCC/LGSS document on “Early Retirement on the Grounds of Efficiency of the Service” states:

“An employee who retires under the early retirement scheme will normally be expected to work their contractual period of notice.”

The official information provided does not add up. The LGSS Annual Report for 2017/18 states: “The LGSS Managing Director left the organisation on 31 March 2018”. It does not specify that he continued to work (and be remunerated) for the two months between his retirement announcement and the financial year end. There would appear to be at least two explanations:

a. Mr Kane worked two months or more of his notice period right up to 31 March 2018 and therefore the £152,000 basic salary represented a full year’s worth. This would mean the £32,500 pay in lieu represented just one month or less notice period not served (if notice period was three months), or that the pay in lieu represented substantially more weeks, which would only be the case if his notice period was much longer, such as five months.

b. He did not work his three month or more contractual notice period, and the reference to leaving the organisation at 31 March was simply a device to disguise the reality. If this were the case, then the pay in lieu component would be more plausible. But then, the £152,000 basic salary actually paid and quoted in the financial statements would represent only ten months or less of his annual salary approved by his employers (the three LGSS partner authorities) in March 2017. This would mean the agreed annual salary would have been around £182,000 (12/10 x £152k), a rise of 35% on the 2016/17 basic salary.

6) There is no evidence in the minutes that Members of the LGSS Joint Committee or the LGSS Joint Overview and Scrutiny Working Group had any advance knowledge of Mr Kane’s early retirement or had any involvement in approving his settlement. Indeed, in the official minutes of the 19 March 2018 meeting of the Working Group, after noting the introduction given by the new LGSS Interim MD, comes the following:

“AGREED that: The Joint Working Group requests to be provided with an off-agenda written briefing giving further information about the departure of the former Managing Director.”

At the end of August, following the announcement of Ms Homer’s extension in the role of Interim MD, NCC Cllr Victoria Perry issued the following tweet:

“LGSS Sarah Homer staying until November following the 6 months initial appointment. First I have heard of it and I’m on the cabinet!”

The overall impression, also expressed elsewhere, is that Members have been kept in the dark about these important decisions and developments.

The above points prompt the following requests for information under FOIA:

1) On what date did the three LGSS partner authorities receive Mr Kane’s written request to take early retirement?

2) On what grounds was Mr Kane’s early retirement ultimately approved (Sections 3, 4, Early Retirement document)?

3) Which senior officers at NCC and/or the other LGSS partner authorities approved Mr Kane’s early retirement? Where is that authorisation documented?

4) Did Members at NCC/LGSS partner authorities approve Mr Kane’s early retirement and/or retirement settlement package? If so who, and when (no indications in minutes of LGSS Joint Committee or LGSS Joint Overview and Scrutiny Working Group).

5) Was Mr Kane’s early retirement approved following a rejection and an appeal (Section 6 – Early Retirement document)?

6) What is the justification for the “compromise agreement” component of Mr Kane’s settlement, which seems to conflict with section 7 of the Early Retirement document?

7) Irrespective of the nominal date Mr Kane “left the organisation”, on what date did his employment cease?

8) What was Mr Kane’s approved annual salary for 2017/18 set before April 1st 2017 (Localism Act 2011)? Who, among NCC and the other two LGSS partnership authorities approved that salary?

9) On what date and where was the LGSS interim Managing Director role first advertised? Please provide details/links to this advertisement.

10) Please provide a copy of the contract award notice for Ms Homer’s initial six month contract.

11) How long was the notice period in Mr Kane’s contract of employment with Northamptonshire County Council/LGSS?

If my request is denied in whole or in part, I would ask that you justify any redaction by reference to specific exemptions of the Act. I will also expect all non-exempt material to be released.

I remind NCC/LGSS that any refusal notice must comply with S17 of the Act.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Rowson

Freedom of Information, Northamptonshire County Council

Freedom of Information Request: FR8682

 

I am writing to acknowledge your request for information received by us on
10/10/2018

 

Our team is dealing with your request and we will be in contact with you
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Northamptonshire County Council
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Freedom of Information, Northamptonshire County Council

1 Attachment

Please find our response to your FOI request attached herewith.

 

Regards,

 

Freedom of Information Team

 

 

Dear Northamptonshire County Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Northamptonshire County Council's handling of my FOI request 'Clarity on details of John Kane's departure from Northamptonshire CC/LGSS'.

Given the sums of public money involved in Mr Kane’s settlement, his very large (and possibly unauthorised) salary increase in 2017/18, the wholesale replacement of the LGSS Leadership this year (mirroring the replacement of NCC leadership) and the current, much overdue scrutiny of LGSS operations under Mr Kane’s leadership, the public is entitled to have straight and complete answers. The responses provided are evasive, incomplete, and contradictory. By way of a request for a review of the authority’s response I am restating those questions not answered satisfactorily with the same numbering references as before, explaining why they were unsatisfactory. On some questions I simply comment on the responses provided. I do not wish to escalate this to the ICO but will do so if I am not satisfied that the authority has answered the questions and resolved the contradictions.

1) If Mr Kane did not retire then either he resigned voluntarily or involuntarily, or was dismissed. Since, as it appears from the response, LGSS published false and misleading information on its website, the response should have made it clear what prompted Mr Kane’s departure and provided the date his departure was formalised – i.e. the date from which his notice period would run. The information I was clearly after in this question was the relevant date. It has to be before February 10th and long enough before that date to have provided sufficient time for the authority to contact the service provider and interview the candidates to replace Mr Kane. Please provide me with this date.

2) If the information on the LGSS website was false, then the response could and should have explained the real cause of Mr Kane’s departure – i.e. dismissal, voluntary or involuntary resignation or other specific reason. Please provide this information. The mention of a “compromise agreement” implies some kind of employment dispute and is incompatible with retirement or voluntary resignation.

6) Under normal circumstances a settlement process and the reasons for it would be confidential between the employer and employee. I made the request in the context of LGSS’s official claim on its website that Mr Kane had retired. If that were true there would have been no need for a compromise agreement. The problem is that making public false statements results in the authority subsequently tying itself in contradictory knots. Public servants are required to tell the truth. If Mr Kane was dismissed, or his exit was not voluntary, then the public has a right to know the truth. So once again, please answer the question I asked.

8) The answer to this question appears to be incorrect. I asked what Mr Kane’s approved annual salary was for the full financial year 2017/18 as set before April 1st 2017 – i.e. in connection with the pay policy statement. The basic pay range for the Senior Management 6 grade (Mr Kane’s grade) for 2017/18 (and 2018/19) was £126,521 - £137,487. This is shown in the Management Structure document in March 2017 and confirmed in the Pay Structure document effective from April 1st 2018, in which it is confirmed there was a pay freeze for all staff in 2018/19. Yet the LGSS financial statements for 2017/18 show Mr Kane receiving a basic salary of £152,000 – i.e. £14,500 above the maximum agreed by the full NCC council on March 16th 2017 for his grade. Two clarification questions arise from this information:

a) Why was Mr Kane’s disclosed basic salary in 2017/18 so much higher than the ceiling agreed by the full council in March 2017? Who approved the much higher basic salary, and where is the documentary evidence to support it?

b) Does the £152,000 basic salary recorded in the LGSS and NCC financial statements represent a full 12 months’ worth of salary? This question arises because of the contradictions over payment in lieu of notice (see below), and because if Mr Kane had worked right up to the end of March, there would have been at least a two month period during which two managing directors were being paid, at a cost of around £70,000.

9) Since the overlap of the two managing directors working together appears to be two months at least, that time would appear to be more than sufficient to have advertised the post. The apparent urgency to place an interim in the post suggests Mr Kane may not have worked until the end of March, hence the importance of question 8 b) above, and 11 below. The response does not admit that the post was not advertised, yet clearly it was not advertised. It would be helpful if the authority admitted the fact.

10) The contract award notice provided was published eight months after the contract start date, two months after the contract end date, and just seven days after I submitted the FOI request. It is clear there would have been no contract award notice had the FOI request not been made. There is no record of the first contract for Ms Homer’s services in the LGSS Contract Pro register either, or of any of the previous contracts with the same supplier, going back to 2016.

11) If Mr Kane’s notice period was indeed the standard three months, and he worked from the date his termination was first formalised (Q1 above) right up to March 31st, then that period of around two months would be reflected in the £152,000 salary component, and consequently the £33,000 pay in lieu of notice element would relate to only around one month. It is far too high a pro rata sum given Mr Kane’s official salary in the Management Structure document, or even given the £152,000 salary quoted in the note to the NCC financial statements. The facts as provided do not add up. It would appear that either:

a) the real pay in lieu element was smaller than £33k and the compromise agreement therefore larger, and the incorrect amounts were stated in order to make the compromise agreement look smaller and therefore more reasonable, or

b) Mr Kane did leave the authority much earlier than March 31st and the answer to Q7 was given to avoid the appearance that he had left in disgrace – possibly in January or early February, shortly after the Best Value Inspection began.

If Mr Kane did leave before March 31st, then his basic salary element of £152,000 would represent less than a full twelve months’ work, and possibly only ten months. Pro rata this would put his full salary for the year (had he not left) at around £180,000, which would be up to £42,500 higher than the salary agreed by the full council in March 2017. His stated salary combined with the stated £33,000 pay in lieu component put his 12 month salary at £185,000, or around £47,500 higher than the salary agreed by the full council. These are very important details and the true facts are clearly in the public interest and need to emerge, especially in light of Mr Caller’s comments in his Best Value Inspection report about the lack of accountability at LGSS. Please clarify in unambiguous terms what the true figures were, i.e. what the £152k referred to (no. of months), what the £33k referred to, and what the true compromise agreement component was.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Rowson

Freedom of Information, Northamptonshire County Council

Dear Mr Rowson,

I am writing to acknowledge your request for a review of Freedom of
Information request FR8682 dated 12/11/2018.

 

Your request has been logged under the reference number R8682 and passed
to our Reviewing Officer, Simon Deacon.

 

If you have any queries about this email, please contact me quoting the
reference in any future communications.

 

You should expect a further response within 20 working days.

 

Kind regards

 

Sarah Jobling

Senior Administrator

Freedom of Information/Data Protection Team

Business Intelligence and Project Management

Northamptonshire County Council

 

Tel: 01604 368360

[Northamptonshire County Council request email]

[1]www.northamptonshire.gov.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

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