Payments to Council officers, scrutinised or otherwise

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Herefordshire 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 partially successful.

Dear Herefordshire Council,

Please browse to Wirral Leaks, an increasingly popular Wirral-based blog, and to the post dated 5th October 2013, entitled:

"Bullying Is An Ugg-ly Business"

http://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2013/10...

This blog has been the source of entirely accurate information in the past and worryingly, this particular thread reports that an unnamed officer of Wirral Council has recently been compensated in the sum of £48,000 (tax free) -following what appears to have been an internal dispute / complaint.

I would like you to provide details of ALL Herefordshire Council officers who have been in receipt of similar payments, whether they be hidden, or declared and scrutinised by members, in these or similar circumstances.

Please provide:

1. Date of payment
2. Amount of payment
3. Reason for payment
4. Have the payment / circumstances been declared publicly?
5. Subject matter e.g. Racial Discrimination; Bullying &
Harassment; Dignity at Work Complaint, etc.
6. Copies of reports; aide memoirs; emails; letters; memoranda; notes; meeting minutes; meeting notes (verbatim or non-verbatim), whether in written or electronic format, and connected to meetings, council scrutiny committees, investigations (internal or external), and / or the processing of any payments.
7. Outcome - e.g. whether employees involved are still employed by the council.
8. Disciplinary Action involved, if any.
9. Number of employees involved in dispute / complaint
10. Number of employees in receipt of payment(s)

I am not asking for names or job positions / sections / departments as I'm aware these details could be used to identify employees and thereby infringe upon their personal privacy. Please redact such identifying information in line with the Data Protection Act.

However, please do not overstep the mark by redacting e.g. the quantities in public money that may have been paid out to officers. Such details are vital to the legitimate and compelling public interest.

Please be kind enough to acknowledge receipt of this FoI request as soon as possible,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Freedom Of Information (Council), Herefordshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Sir

 

Please find attached acknowledgement of your FOI request

 

Regards

 

Claire

 

Claire Jacobs

Information Access Officer

Information Access Team

Economy, Communities & Corporate

Herefordshire Council

Plough Lane | PO Box 4 | Hereford HR4 OXH

 

“Any opinion expressed in this e-mail or any attached files are those of
the individual and not necessarily those of Herefordshire Council,
Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS Trust or
2gether NHS Foundation Trust. You should be aware that Herefordshire
Council, Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS
Trust & 2gether NHS Foundation Trust monitors its email service. This
e-mail and any attached files are confidential and intended solely for the
use of the addressee. This communication may contain material protected by
law from being passed on. If you are not the intended recipient and have
received this e-mail in error, you are advised that any use,
dissemination, forwarding, printing or copying of this e-mail is strictly
prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error please contact the
sender immediately and destroy all copies of it.”

Dear Freedom Of Information (Council),

Please confirm you will be addressing this FoI request. The current position looks confused as your covering letter is an acknowledgement, and the attachment is phrased as a response but clearly isn't,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Freedom Of Information (Council), Herefordshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Sir

Thank you for your email.

I can confirm that we are addressing your FOI request, apologies the wrong letter was attached to our previous email. Please now find attached the acknowledgement letter

Regards

Claire

Claire Jacobs
Information Access Officer
Information Access Team
Economy, Communities & Corporate
Herefordshire Council
Plough Lane | PO Box 4 | Hereford HR4 OXH

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Freedom Of Information (Council), Herefordshire Council

Dear Sir

 

Regarding your recent request for information, we have been unable to
identify the information you have requested from the details provided. To
help us meet your request, please could you provide some further
clarification as to what you are requesting.

 

Please can you clarify what time frame your request relates to? E.g. the
last financial year, etc

 

Under S1(3) of the Act, the statutory limit of 20 working days is
suspended until the question has been clarified sufficiently to locate the
requested information. Once the details of your request have been
clarified it will be considered and processed further

 

Regards

 

Claire

 

Claire Jacobs

Information Access Officer

Information Access Team

Economy, Communities & Corporate

Herefordshire Council

Plough Lane | PO Box 4 | Hereford HR4 OXH

 

“Any opinion expressed in this e-mail or any attached files are those of
the individual and not necessarily those of Herefordshire Council,
Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS Trust or
2gether NHS Foundation Trust. You should be aware that Herefordshire
Council, Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS
Trust & 2gether NHS Foundation Trust monitors its email service. This
e-mail and any attached files are confidential and intended solely for the
use of the addressee. This communication may contain material protected by
law from being passed on. If you are not the intended recipient and have
received this e-mail in error, you are advised that any use,
dissemination, forwarding, printing or copying of this e-mail is strictly
prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error please contact the
sender immediately and destroy all copies of it.”

Dear Freedom Of Information (Council),

Thanks for your response. In the interests of keeping this query below the "costs" threshold, please return answers for the last two financial years, beginning April 2012 and ending part way through the current financial year i.e. November 2013,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear Freedom Of Information (Council),

To clarify my last message, I am referring to an end date of 8th November 2013 or the date I lodged this request,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear Freedom Of Information (Council),

I do apologise. Please amend my request to take in the financial year commencing 2010.

i.e. April 2010 through to November 8th 2013,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Freedom Of Information (Council), Herefordshire Council

Dear Sir

Thank you for clarifying that you are requesting the information from April 2010 to 8th November 2013.

I have forwarded this clarification onto the department holding the information, who will now continue to process your request. We will provide you with a response by 6th December.

Regards

Claire

Claire Jacobs
Information Access Officer
Information Access Team
Economy, Communities & Corporate
Herefordshire Council
Plough Lane | PO Box 4 | Hereford HR4 OXH

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Dear Herefordshire Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Herefordshire Council's handling of my FOI request 'Payments to Council officers, scrutinised or otherwise'.

6th December has come and gone, but there has been no full response from Herefordshire Council, who are now in breach of the Act.

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

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Access To Information, Herefordshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Sir

 

Please find attached response to your FOI request

 

Regards

 

Claire

 

 

Claire Jacobs

Information Access Officer

Information Access Team

Economy, Communities & Corporate

Herefordshire Council

Plough Lane | PO Box 4 | Hereford HR4 OXH

 

 

“Any opinion expressed in this e-mail or any attached files are those of
the individual and not necessarily those of Herefordshire Council,
Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS Trust or
2gether NHS Foundation Trust. You should be aware that Herefordshire
Council, Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS
Trust & 2gether NHS Foundation Trust monitors its email service. This
e-mail and any attached files are confidential and intended solely for the
use of the addressee. This communication may contain material protected by
law from being passed on. If you are not the intended recipient and have
received this e-mail in error, you are advised that any use,
dissemination, forwarding, printing or copying of this e-mail is strictly
prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error please contact the
sender immediately and destroy all copies of it.”

Access To Information, Herefordshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Sir

Please find attached acknowledgement of your request for an internal review of the above FOI request

Regards

Information Access Team
Economy, Communities & Corporate
Herefordshire Council
Plough Lane | PO Box 4 | Hereford HR4 OXH

show quoted sections

Access To Information, Herefordshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Sir

 

Please find attached response to your request for a review of the above
FOI request response

 

Regards

 

 

Information Access Team

Economy, Communities & Corporate

Herefordshire Council

Plough Lane | PO Box 4 | Hereford HR4 OXH

 

 

“Any opinion expressed in this e-mail or any attached files are those of
the individual and not necessarily those of Herefordshire Council,
Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS Trust or
2gether NHS Foundation Trust. You should be aware that Herefordshire
Council, Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS
Trust & 2gether NHS Foundation Trust monitors its email service. This
e-mail and any attached files are confidential and intended solely for the
use of the addressee. This communication may contain material protected by
law from being passed on. If you are not the intended recipient and have
received this e-mail in error, you are advised that any use,
dissemination, forwarding, printing or copying of this e-mail is strictly
prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error please contact the
sender immediately and destroy all copies of it.”

Dear Access To Information,

Thank you for your responses to my initial request, which was 1 working day late and to my request for an internal review, which appears to amount to an apology / justification for being late, and not an internal review by a senior officer tasked with it, in accordance with the Act.

I do not believe you have been thorough in your response, but I don't believe I can ask for another internal review. For this reason, please take this message as notice that I will be appealing to the Information Commissioner's Office in the following terms.

Here is a link to an important and I believe relevant Section of the FOI Act (Section 77):

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000...

This deals with the offence of altering records with intent to prevent disclosure.

I have a very different understanding of the facts attached to these issues and will attempt to list them in a series of detailed statements. These are sequential and relate directly to the questions asked in the original request and the responses that you as the data controller have provided.

1. Date of Payment (the number of payments is at least FIVE)

Payment ONE - Between end of October 2012 and 7th November 2012

Payment TWO - Between 15th and 20th December 2012

Payment THREE - uncertain, but unlikely to be March 2013, as stated in your response.

Payment FOUR - 26th July 2012

Payment FIVE - Between 26th July and end of August 2012

2. Amount of payment

As you have stated an uncertain number of recipients of payments AND appear to have incorrectly stated the month of "March 2013" as the date of all payments, your ability to rely upon Section 40(2) is now diminished and questionable.

As there were actually at least FIVE separate payments, this increases the likelihood that the sum involved could travel well into six figures. I believe there would be a legitimate and compelling public interest in knowing this amount, not just because Section 77 (altering records with intent to prevent disclosure) appears to have become engaged, but also because there appear to have been no checks and balances in the form of elected member scrutiny on these payments.

3. Reason for payment

(see 2. above)

4. Have the payment circumstances been declared publicly?

The legitimate public interest becomes more compelling if the data controller has sought to conceal what could be large, unscrutinised payments of public money from public oversight without good reason.

5. Subject matter e.g. Racial Discrimination; Bullying & Harassment; Dignity at Work Complaint, etc.

Whilst the desire to protect the council's reputation is understandable from an operational point of view, it should not be done as a first resort, and at the expense of the public interest. If bullying and harassment is occurring between public servants (and what looks like a large number of public servants) this should not be expediently concealed from the wider public using Section 40 of the FOI Act, which exists only to protect sensitive personal information - and not potentially scandalising events.

6. Copies of reports; aide memoirs; emails; letters; memoranda; notes; meeting minutes; meeting notes (verbatim or non-verbatim), whether in written or electronic format; and connected to meetings, council scrutiny committees; investigations (internal or external), and / or the processing of any payments.

These items of correspondence / records could be carefully redacted in order to serve the legitimate and compelling public interest described above AND to protect the data privacy of the employees concerned. As stated earlier, if the misuse of Section 40(2) and Section 77 begin to play a prominent role here, the public interest will grow and the lack of public oversight to date will become a factor. Further, the data controller has made an admission that only SOME of the data involved is sensitive personal data.

7. Outcome – e.g. whether employees involved are still employed by the council.

Please refer to above link (Section 77 of FOIA - altering records with intent to prevent disclosure).

In fact, 6 members of staff remain, 5 of whom are classed as disabled.

In fact, 2 members of staff departed the council.

In fact, 6 further members of staff were involved but are not referred to or accounted for within your responses to date.

8. Disciplinary action involved, if any.

Grievance settlements in themselves would indicate guilt on the part of one or more employees. The question has to be asked "Why was there no disciplinary action". The public interest and public oversight, if there were any, would demand that the council's reputation does not "sweep all before it" and obviate the need to follow internal policies and procedures as regards a compelling case for disciplinary action e.g. in this case, the bullying of disabled members of staff.

9. Number of employees involved in dispute / complaint.

Please refer to above link (Section 77 of FOIA - altering records with intent to prevent disclosure).

Including the 3 (three) members of staff accused, the number of employees involved in the complaint is 11 (ELEVEN)

10. Number of employees in receipt of payment(s).

These figures only appear to include payments made to staff who brought the grievance. Correct, democratic public oversight demands to know whether payments have been made to any of the other 6 staff involved.

You are welcome to respond with further clarification, but please be advised that an appeal to the ICO is now in the pipeline,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Access To Information, Herefordshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Sir

Please find attached letter in relation to your email of 12th December

Regards

Information Access Team
Economy, Communities & Corporate
Herefordshire Council
Plough Lane | PO Box 4 | Hereford HR4 OXH

show quoted sections

Dear Access To Information,

Thanks. Your receipt of my internal review request was 11th December 2013. I will expect to hear from you on or before 1st January 2014 (or 28th January 2014 in the extreme).

Season's Greetings,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Access To Information, Herefordshire Council

Hi Anthony

Response from Mr Cardin below. Not sure whether I should leave this, or email back to confirm (again) that the request for a review was received on 12th December and it's working days for us to respond?

Many thanks

Claire

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Access To Information, Herefordshire Council

Access To Information would like to recall the message, "FOI CIU 6051 - Review Response".
“Any opinion expressed in this e-mail or any attached files are those of the individual and not necessarily those of Herefordshire Council, Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS Trust or 2gether NHS Foundation Trust. You should be aware that Herefordshire Council, Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS Trust & 2gether NHS Foundation Trust monitors its email service. This e-mail and any attached files are confidential and intended solely for the use of the addressee. This communication may contain material protected by law from being passed on. If you are not the intended recipient and have received this e-mail in error, you are advised that any use, dissemination, forwarding, printing or copying of this e-mail is strictly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error please contact the sender immediately and destroy all copies of it.”

Access To Information, Herefordshire Council

Dear Sir

Apologies that your were inadvertently copied into our previous email. Having checked with my colleagues, I can advise that we will endeavour to carry out and respond to your request for a review as soon as possible, however, please note that the review is carried out within a working day timescale, not a calendar one

Regards

Information Access Team
Economy, Communities & Corporate
Herefordshire Council
Plough Lane | PO Box 4 | Hereford HR4 OXH

show quoted sections

Dear Access To Information,

According to correspondence received, your organisation received my request for internal review on 11th December 2014.

In the absence of any request for a time extension, this has now run overdue and beyond the 20 working day time period permitted within the Act.

If a response is not with me by end of day tomorrow, 10th January 2014, I will be appealing to the Information Commissioner's Office.

Thank you for your time,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Access To Information, Herefordshire Council

2 Attachments

Dear Sir

Thank you for your email.

Please find attached a copy of your request for an internal review, which was made on the 12th December 2013.

Please also find attached a copy of our acknowledgement letter, which states that the request for a review will be responded to within 20 working days, or 40 at the extreme. Your request for a review will be dealt with within these timescales.

Regards

Information Access Team
Economy, Communities & Corporate
Herefordshire Council
Plough Lane | PO Box 4 | Hereford HR4 OXH

show quoted sections

Dear Access To Information,

I'm afraid sending copies of acknowledgment letters that are nearly a month old is not serving anybody's interests, least of all the public.

Nowhere have you acknowledged the fact that this request has not been addressed and has now run well overdue.

With this in mind, I will now appeal to the ICO,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear Access To Information,

By now, not having met the 20 day deadline, you should be advising me the reason for the delay and stating that you require extra time.

Even if you reply and do this, you are not permitted to exceed 40 working days,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Access To Information, Herefordshire Council

Dear Sir

 

I write further to our letter of 18^th December 2013.

 

I am writing to advise that we will now exceed the 20 working days for the
review, which is due to reasons of staff capacity and the complex nature
of the issues raised,  and will now respond within 40 working days from
the date of your request for a review.

 

Regards

 

 

Information Access Team

Economy, Communities & Corporate

Herefordshire Council

Plough Lane | PO Box 4 | Hereford HR4 OXH

 

 

 

“Any opinion expressed in this e-mail or any attached files are those of
the individual and not necessarily those of Herefordshire Council,
Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS Trust or
2gether NHS Foundation Trust. You should be aware that Herefordshire
Council, Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS
Trust & 2gether NHS Foundation Trust monitors its email service. This
e-mail and any attached files are confidential and intended solely for the
use of the addressee. This communication may contain material protected by
law from being passed on. If you are not the intended recipient and have
received this e-mail in error, you are advised that any use,
dissemination, forwarding, printing or copying of this e-mail is strictly
prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error please contact the
sender immediately and destroy all copies of it.”

Dear Access To Information,

Thank you for your response, however the 20 day deadline has NOT just passed.

In fact the [NETWORKDAYS] function within Microsoft Excel (which I recommend you should use) informs me that the 20 working days you had available to deal with and respond to this request expired on 7th January 2014. (starting date = 11th December 2013 - or date of your receipt of internal review request).

By my calculations, you now have until 4th February to deal with and respond to this request,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear Access To Information,

p.s. Quoting "staff capacity" as a justification for extending response times is NOT supported within the FOI Act,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear Access To Information,

Despite availing yourselves of an extended time period for this request, you have failed to furnish the requested information within the 40 working days stated.

I am now forced to consider appealing this to the Information Commissioner's Office.

I do understand that this is a complex query, however your organisation should be resourced correctly to meet and address such legitimate and reasonable public requests as and when they arise.

I will allow you two further working days to provide the information i.e. a full response to my request for an internal review.

If the information does not arrive before the deadline of 5pm Friday 14th February 2014, I will be appealing this case to the Information Commissioner,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Access To Information, Herefordshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Sir

 

Please find attached response to your request for a review of the above
FOI request

 

Regards

 

 

Information Access Team

Economy, Communities & Corporate

Herefordshire Council

Plough Lane | PO Box 4 | Hereford HR4 OXH

 

 

“Any opinion expressed in this e-mail or any attached files are those of
the individual and not necessarily those of Herefordshire Council,
Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS Trust or
2gether NHS Foundation Trust. You should be aware that Herefordshire
Council, Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), Wye Valley NHS
Trust & 2gether NHS Foundation Trust monitors its email service. This
e-mail and any attached files are confidential and intended solely for the
use of the addressee. This communication may contain material protected by
law from being passed on. If you are not the intended recipient and have
received this e-mail in error, you are advised that any use,
dissemination, forwarding, printing or copying of this e-mail is strictly
prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error please contact the
sender immediately and destroy all copies of it.”

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Appealed today to the ICO.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

A senior ICO person is currently looking at this.

Regarding Section 77 of the FOIA, which is there to deal with 'foul play', here's the next surprising development:

From: casework@ico.org.uk [mailto:casework@ico.org.uk]
Sent: 19 June 2014 09:59
To: Paul C
Subject: Re: FOIA complaint about Herefordshire Council (Ref FS50531217)[Ref. FS50531217]

19th June 2014

Case Reference Number FS50531217

Dear Mr Cardin,

Thank you for providing me with this clarification. I will now continue with my investigation into the Council's response on this case.

In relation to the concerns you have raised regarding section 77, from the submissions you have provided there does not appear to be sufficient evidence to enable the ICO to conduct a section 77 investigation.

Yours sincerely

Gemma Garvey

From: Paul C
Sent: 19 June 2014 10:47
To: 'casework@ico.org.uk'
Subject: RE: FOIA complaint about Herefordshire Council (Ref FS50531217)[Ref. FS50531217]

Dear Ms Garvey,

Thanks for your response.

From a public interest viewpoint, I’d appreciate it very much if you could explore and evaluate these Section 77 concerns, provide an explanation for this decision and back that up with some sound reasoning in your final investigation report,

Regards,

Paul Cardin

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Link to ICO decision notice here.

http://ico.org.uk/~/media/documents/deci...

There's a VERY basic error right at the start of this legal document:

"1. The complainant has requested information about severance payments..."

I didn't. It was much more than that.

Deadline to appeal arrives on or about 10th September 2014.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Following this request, a very dirty underbelly is slowly being uncovered to horrified local council tax payers in Herefordshire:

http://www.herefordvoice.co.uk/topic/145...

Richard Taylor left an annotation ()

This request, and the ICO decision, has been featured on p16 of the 3-16 October 2014 issue of Private Eye.

The article states: "Freedom of Information Campaigner Paul Cardin, began trying to prise the truth out of the council" ... "Payoffs to the bullies and the bullied are believed to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, but the Tory-Independent coalition council has refused to say how much the total is because doing so could "identify" the victims. This is as legal experts say, 'complete bollocks'. Mystifyingly, the Information Commissioner has agreed with the council, following an appeal by Mr Cardin. Clearly he is not paying attention. "

Tim Turner left an annotation ()

Given the publicity Mr Cardin is enjoying over this request, it is perhaps a shame that he has chosen not to appeal the decision itself, ensuring that the information remains undisclosed.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Hmmm. According to the WDTK site notes, annotations may be made to help requesters (or others). Yours ain't helping :)

Far from "enjoying" publicity, I graft hard (unpaid) to make a difference - unlike yourself and your boss (who registers £1,800 per single day of RIPA training from mine and other local councils) !

However, it's not raking in mountains of cash that drives me. See my 6 month stint invested in building a survey on English councils' compromise agreements and gagging clauses. I'd say this has achieved far more for the advancement of the public interest, openness and transparency than any number of speculative, mercenary-esque, self-enriching forays into the public purse.

Still seething over yesterday's Twitter discussion are we Mr Turner? lolz.

btw, you appear to have forgotten all too quickly, but I did patiently explain to you here, more than once, my decision not to appeal.

http://goo.gl/ruVm9m

"Upsetting bullies may have undesirable consequences" would sum the situation up for most well-balanced, sentient persons. Let's just say I have certain, specific knowledge on this situation, the nature of which you seemingly can't even begin to guess at !

The preferred option of preserving one's reputation through callous victimisation is holding sway at many of our public organisations sadly !

Now run along, there's a good fellow.

Tim Turner left an annotation ()

The idea that an FOI request can be discussed on the internet, talked about in Private Eye and appealed to the Information Commissioner, and yet somehow going to the Tribunal is off limits is absurd. Perhaps the problem here is your lack of success in a previous attempt to overturn an ICO decision.

This makes a mockery of FOI, which is about disclosure of information, not PR for applicants. If something is going on in Hereford, one can only hope that someone else is more determined to root it out.

And if you find my comments unhelpful / a bit too close to the truth, run along the administrators and complain.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Thanks for engaging with me Tim. Very impactful. We've transitioned thru an improvement journey, and are now in a position to embrace a robust outcome.