Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Essex County 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 Essex County Council,

Please supply totals for the following:

As far as records go back, the annual figures for the total number of current employees / ex-employees of the 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, annual figures for 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 the body acting as the Council's legal team, to forgo their right to approach the council in the future with Freedom of Information and/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,

Paul Cardin

Claire McCarthy Analyst and Admin Support, Essex County Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Thank you for your request for information, which was received by Essex
County Council on the 4th January 2011 and has been given reference
number 2168.

We will determine to let you know whether we hold the information you have
requested and consider whether it is exempt from disclosure. Under certain
circumstances we may charge for providing information, but we will let you
know before we do any work that would incur a charge.

Your request is covered by the Freedom of Information Act, under which we
must respond within 20 working days.

Please contact me if you would like further advice or assistance about
your request or your rights to access information held by Essex County
Council.

Claire McCarthy

Corporate HR Services

Analyst & Admin Support

Essex County Council | telephone: 01245 431679 | extension: 21679 | email:
[1][email address]

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Claire McCarthy Analyst and Admin Support, Essex County Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Thank you your freedom of information request which was received by Essex
County Council on the 4 January 2011 and given reference 2168.

Please see below information which I believe satisfies your request:

As far as records go back, the annual figures for the total number of
current employees / ex-employees of the Council who have signed compromise
agreements directly related to the resolving of dispute(s) / grievance(s)
/ internal and external investigation(s)/ whistle blowing incident(s).

+------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| Year | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | Total |
|---------------+----------+----------+---------+---------+---------+----------|
| Headcount | 2 | 9 | 13 | 22 | 11 | 57 |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------------+

Please note this data is for non Schools employees only

In addition to this, annual figures for 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 the body acting
as the Council's legal team, to forgo their right to approach the council
in the future with Freedom of Information and/or DPA Subject Access
requests under the relevant Acts.

Essex County Council do not include any clauses in compromise agreements
which require individuals to forgo their right to approach the council in
the future with Freedom of Information and/or DPA Subject Access requests.
Therefore, the annual figures are 0.

You may reuse all or part of this information free of charge in any format
or medium. You must reuse it accurately and not in a misleading context.
The material must be acknowledged as Essex County Council copyright and
you must give the title of the source document/publication.

If you are not satisfied with my response to your request, please let me
know. If I am unable to resolve the issue immediately, I will explain our
complaints procedure.

If, after following our complaints procedure, you are still not satisfied,
you are entitled to ask the Information Commissioner to review our
decision. You can contact him at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 01625 545700.

Claire McCarthy

Performance and Reward Officer

Corporate HR Services

Essex County Council | telephone: 01245 431679 | extension: 21679 | email:
[1][email address]

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Dear Claire,

Many thanks for your positive response.

I am currently involved in research in this area and your figures look rather high. I am concerned that your figures may have been unfairly inflated by the inclusion of more routine agreements. I appreciate your assistance very much, but please can you exclude compromise agreements drawn up in the following circumstances:

1. Purely redundancy situations
2. Purely PILON (payment in lieu of notice) situations
3. Equal pay claims
4. TUPE situations
5. COT3 agreements (where tribunal proceedings may or may not have been initiated)

Also, to assist you further, I will narrow the time period down to between the years 2005 to 2010 i.e. the last six years.

Given that you have arrived at a manageable total already, I imagine that the task will not be too arduous.

If there are any difficulties, can I suggest that you query your Accounts Department? I ask this because when employees leave in the circumstances I am describing, they tend to be offered a financial incentive to end their working contracts. Your Accounts department is required to keep a detailed
electronic record of all such payments within an adequate data storage / retrieval system. Hopefully it will not be too arduous a task for them to provide Annual total figures for compromise agreements drawn up in these circumstances.

You could also put in a call to your Legal Department who may keep a similar searchable database.

I hope the above information assists you with this narrowed query.

Many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Claire McCarthy Analyst and Admin Support, Essex County Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Following on from your email dated 25th January 2011 firstly, I need to
advise that the information you require is not recorded in any easily
retrievable electronic format.

To provide the information you require will require a manual interrogation
of each personnel file mentioned previously. We estimate that to review
each of the personnel files to identify the exact reason for the
compromise agreement would take about 30 minutes per file as the case
notes would have to be studied to identify the individual factors which
led to the compromise agreement.

Considering we have 57 files to review it would take approximately 28.5
hours to retrieve this information and so I have calculated that it would
cost Essex County Council more than £450 to locate, retrieve and provide
the information that you have requested so I am exercising Eyck's right
not fulfil your request.

Claire McCarthy

Performance and Reward Officer

Corporate HR Services

Essex County Council | telephone: 01245 431679 | extension: 21679 | email:
[1][email address]

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Dear Essex County Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Essex County Council's handling of my FOI request 'Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.'.

I gave advice regarding the wider context and the wide-ranging positive respone I have received in general. I also made suggestions about other potentially more effective approaches to locating the information. There was no response to these. I always err on the side of saving public money by not immediately going to internal review, but in this case this has not proved possible.

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

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Claire McCarthy Analyst and Admin Support, Essex County Council

Dear Mr. Cardin

Following on from your email dated 4 February 2011 I write to confirm that
we are conducting an internal review of the response to FOI 2168.

I have passed the relevant information to Maxine Taylor, Head of Corporate
HR Services for investigation and reply.

You within receive a response within 10 working days from the date of
receipt.

In the meantime if you have any further concerns please contact me.

Claire McCarthy

Performance and Reward Officer

Corporate HR Services

Essex County Council | telephone: 01245 431679 | extension: 21679 | email:
[1][email address]

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References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Maxine Taylor Acting Head of HR, Essex County Council

1 Attachment

Dear Maxine Taylor Acting Head of HR,

Thanks for your response. Please take this to the next stage, and look closely at the context information I have provided - which has now progressed further.

To date, 213 English Councils have responded positively and in full. These are councils of varying size and political make up. Many are County Councils similar to Essex.

I am concerned that there is a kind of 'postcode lottery' at play. I believe that the public interest in releasing the information outweighs the public interest in not releasing it, and don't count the ongoing maintenance and reliance upon an adequate storage / retrieval system as adequate justification for not complying.

213 councils have recognised and made allowances for this. You are so far unique in being the first council to refuse following an internal review.

I look forward to your assistance with this,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear Essex County Council,

Just to highlight a typo in my last message. The first 'adequate' should have read 'inadequate',

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

James Boylett IS Corporate Information Governance Manager, Essex County Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Review: Essex County Council's (ECC) disclosure of information under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000

Thank you for your response dated 14^th February regarding your recent
request for information from Essex County Council. In your reply you
stated that you were unhappy with the response that has been provided to
you. Your complaint will now go to our Stage 3 review, our Information
Appeals Panel (the Panel); this is the final stage of our information
complaints procedure. The role of the Panel is to assess whether ECC has
complied with its obligations under information legislation and ECC's
procedure for handling information requests.

The Panel is currently booked for 3^rd March and the Panel's decision will
be communicated to you by Tuesday 8^th March 2011. Further details on ECC
complaints process can be found on our website, I have included a link to
our Complaints Policy (PDF) for your information:
[1]http://www.essex.gov.uk/AnalyticsReports....

If, after following our complaints procedure, you are still not satisfied
you are entitled to ask the Information Commissioner to review its
decision. You can contact him at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 01625 545700.

Kind regards,

James Boylett
Policy & Governance Manager

Information Services

Essex County Council | telephone: 01245 435829 | extension: 55829 | email:
[2][email address]

EssexWorks

For a better quality of life

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James Boylett IS Corporate Information Governance Manager, Essex County Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Review of refusal to disclose information under the Freedom of Information
Act

Following your request that this matter be referred to our information
appeals panel, I am writing to advise you of the outcome of their review.

On 4 March 2011, Essex County Council's Information Appeals Panel (`the
Panel') reviewed your request to assess whether Essex County Council
(`ECC') had dealt with your request in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act; including the application of Section 12: exemption where
cost of compliance exceeds the appropriate limit and the advice and
assistance ECC provided to you, as detailed in Section 16: advice and
assistance.

The Panel partially upheld your complaint that your request for
statistical information relating to current and ex employees who have
signed compromise agreements (excluding agreements drawn up in certain
circumstances), had not been handled in accordance with the requirements
of the Freedom of Information Act (the Act) and apologises for this.

The Panel first considered ECC's application of Section 12, where the cost
of compliance exceeds appropriate limit, and found that it would indeed
take over 18 hours for ECC to locate, retrieve and provide this
information to you. The Panel found that the 30 minute estimate per file
for locating and extracting the information was reasonable as there is no
alternative way to exclude certain circumstances from the statistics;
therefore it would require each file to be reviewed to ascertain the
circumstances relating to that case. They also considered other mechanisms
to locate the information, including your suggestion that the Accounts
Department might be able to locate this information, and they agreed that
this level of information is not held within other departments as it would
not identify details of compromise agreements and their individual
circumstances.

However, the Panel felt that whilst ECC had provided some advice and
assistance, more could have been done to resolve your request sooner, for
which the Panel would like to offer its apologies. It was felt that
further advice and assistance around providing you with options to reduce
the scope of your request so that it would fall within the 18 hour limit
should have been offered to you. The Panel would therefore like to offer
to provide you with as much of the information as we can within the 18
hour limit, for example the last two years. If you would like to accept
our offer to narrow your request to the information which can be gathered
within 18 hours, please let me know.

The factors considered by the Panel before reaching this decision were:

o The cost to ECC to locate, retrieve and provide this
information;

o Any alternatives available to ECC to provide some of this
information so that it would fall within the cost ceiling.

o The level of advice from ECC to you, as the requester, in
reducing the scope of your request to fall within the cost ceiling;

o ECC's advice to you with regards to your rights under the
Freedom of Information Act;

This is the final stage of our internal complaints procedure. The Panel
hopes that your request is satisfied and you understand and accept its
decision. However, if you are still not satisfied, you are entitled to ask
the Information Commissioner to review its decision. You can contact him
at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone
01625 545700.

Yours sincerely

James Boylett
Policy & Governance Manager

Information Services

Essex County Council | telephone: 08457 430 430 | email:
[1][email address]

EssexWorks

For a better quality of life

show quoted sections

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Essex County Council went to internal review, before deciding against supplying the information. This has been taken to an appeal with the Information Commissioner's Office.

Please link here to read about the further aspects of this request:

www.easyvirtualassistance.co.uk/page4.html

...including councils who have attempted to prevent individuals from exercising their statutory FOI / DP querying rights.

There is a growing trend for the use of compromise agreements, not just in the area of disputes or whistleblowing, but also in less controversial areas of redundancy, severance or equal pay claims. Some councils have yet to answer this query - and to date, 65 working days have elapsed.