Compromise Agreements

Martin Morton made this Freedom of Information request to Cheshire West and Chester Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Dear Cheshire West & Chester Council,

Please supply totals for the following: Since vesting day and the inception of Cheshire West and Chester Council in April 2009, the total number of current employees or ex-employees of Cheshire West and Chester Council who have signed compromise agreements directly related to the resolving of dispute(s) / grievance(s) / internal and external investigation(s) / whistleblowing incident(s). In addition to this, the number of current employees / ex-employees who have agreed, following the matter being raised and made conditional as part of a compromise agreement drawn up by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s legal team, to forgo their right to approach the council in the future with Freedom of Information or DPA Subject Access requests under the relevant Acts. Please note that I do not seek or require any personal information such as names and addresses – only the total figures for each subject area.

Yours faithfully,

Martin Morton

FOI West, Cheshire West and Chester Council

Dear Mr Morton

Thank you for your email. It will be treated as a request within the meaning of the Act: this means that we will send you a full response within 20 working days, either supplying you with the information which you want, or explaining to you why we cannot supply it. If we need any further clarification or there is any problem we will be in touch.

In the meantime if you wish to discuss this further please contact me. It would be helpful if you could quote the log number 401260.

Yours sincerely

Mrs Caroline Timms
FOI Unit - Solutions Team
Cheshire West and Chester Council

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FOI West, Cheshire West and Chester Council

Dear Mr Morton

Further to your FOI Request, Log Number 401260, please find our response
below.

    

1. Please supply totals for the following: Since vesting day and the
inception of Cheshire West and Chester Council in April 2009, the total
number of current employees or ex-employees of Cheshire West and Chester
Council who have signed compromise agreements directly related to the
resolving of dispute(s) / grievance(s) / internal and external
investigation(s) / whistleblowing incident(s).

Answer:25

2. In addition to this, the number of current employees /
ex-employees who have agreed, following the matter being raised and made
conditional as part of a compromise agreement drawn up by Cheshire West
and Chester Council’s legal team, to forgo their right to approach the
council in the future with Freedom of Information or DPA Subject Access
requests under the relevant Acts.

Answer:1

     

I trust this answers your enquiry.   

Miriam Wallace

FOI Unit  - Solutions Tem

Cheshire West and Chester Council

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Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

This is the same council who wanted to illegally charge for all FOI requests. Now it would appear that they want to stop ex employees from using the FOI and DP Acts. How low can a council get? More importantly what are Cheshire West afraid of, no doubt the truth about how bad they really are getting out.

Martin Morton left an annotation ()

Thank you, but a particular strand of this response is very perplexing.
I cannot understand how legally or ethically an individual can be prevented from making an FOI/DPA request.
Has CWAC Legal Department advised this as an appropriate course of action?.
From my own experience it suggests that the person who was subject to this particular clause has been denied their legal rights because there was something specific that the Council wanted to hide.
This is the same Council that effectively branded members of the public making FOI requests as timewasters - and issued a press release recently which stated "We are all in favour of openness and transparency but some of the questions are vexacious (sic), ridiculous. Sometimes even anonymous (Justin Time)… and in no way reflect the admirable spirit of the Act."

http://www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk...

Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

This Council like many others use taxpayers money to fund spin newspapers and spin website. The press release mentioned above is nothing but spin. The FOI Act already includes exemptions for vexatious requests and those too costly to fulfil. It is this Council who are not entering to the spirit of the FOI Act by asking their 'solutions' team to identify a way of illegally charging for all FOI requests and stopping their ex staff using the DP and FOI Acts.

Anastasia left an annotation ()

Trevor R Nunn, how are the Cheshire West & Chester Council trying to stop ex employees from using the FOI and DP Acts?

Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

Anastasia

I refer you to the original FOI request and response above.

The number of current employees ex-employees who have agreed, following the matter being raised and made conditional as part of a compromise agreement drawn up by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s legal team, to forgo their right to approach the council in the future with Freedom of Information or DPA Subject Access requests under the relevant Acts.

Answer:1

And to an article by David Higgerson

http://davidhiggerson.wordpress.com/2011...

Trevor

Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

Forgot to add, this was also tweeted by What Do They Know.

WhatDoTheyKnow Chester&Cheshire West Council (@go_cheshirewest) seeking to ban an employee/ex-employee from making DPA/FOI requests: http://bit.ly/hrJazT

Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

More press about this request here

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greensla...

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

This is an unusual and possibly unlawful situation. Further information and comment, including an ongoing appeal, links to media stories, status of FOI requests, and a "response" from the Local Government Association are at the following link:

www.easyvirtualassistance.co.uk/page4.html

The Information Commissioner's Officer have stated that the behaviour is likely to breach the Act. The council concerned have defended their actions.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

The council caved in on 24th June 2011, but continue to insist that the gag was always "lawful". Currently, they continue to assert that the FOI / DP gag will be used again in the future, as and when the need arises.

However, for contrast, here's what a selection of Cheshire West's LGA colleagues think about this:

http://tinyurl.com/6fmqv6n

Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

CwaC Council legal department has a track record of allowing themselves to be manipulated by councillors, so take everything they say with a very large pinch of salt.

http://bodgedroad.blogspot.com/2011/06/d...

Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

Forgot to add they are also the council which wanted to charge for all FOI requests, which everyone except CwaC's legal department already knew was illegal.

http://bodgedroad.blogspot.com/2010/11/c...

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

There is now a subsequent request for more information, aimed at seeing whether the council have used the gag again in the past year. Also requested is the cost in public money of muzzling ex-employees who may pose an ongoing threat to the council's reputation:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/fr...

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Update here on Freedom of Information gagging clauses, including the opinion of senior counsel, Hugh Tomlinson QC:

http://easyvirtualassistance.wordpress.c...

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Here’s a piece of legal opinion from Senior Counsel Hugh Tomlinson QC, which appears to make more likely the prospect of public sector employers opting for Freedom of Information and Data Protection “gagging clauses” within compromise agreements; and thereby aiming to remove persons’ statutory rights to make data and information requests.

It has been an effective reputation management tactic, and a way of concealing the historical malpractice engaged in by employers when targetting whistleblowers or getting rid of people who’ve lodged grievances. The ruse has been deployed in the past by two councils; Cheshire West & Chester, and Brent.

The ICO are powerless to prevent it as the HT opinion implies that contract law takes precedence over a person’s statutory rights – which it appears can be surrendered. The ICO could only act if the recipient of any “ban” were to breach it and make an FoI or DP request of the relevant data controller – which is unlikely to occur because there’s always a “club over the head” of the signatory to the compromise agreement i.e. the threat of any monetary pay off being clawed back through the courts.

http://tinyurl.com/bu9vynx