Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Guildford Borough 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 Guildford Borough 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

IRO, Guildford Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the
Act). This communication is to confirm that your enquiry is being
processed in line with the council's Access to Information procedures.
You will receive a more detailed response within the next 20 working days.

In acknowledging your request, we believe that it would be helpful to
bring the following to your attention:

A high number of requests under the Act is generated by commercial
organisations, the media and researchers, and aimed indiscriminately at
all public authorities. As we process requests strictly in the order by
which they are received, this high volume of business enquiries may
occasionally result in longer than expected response timescales - even if
they appear to be relatively straightforward. For this reason we would
recommend avoiding the use of the formal Freedom of Information route for
straightforward enquiries that could be answered quickly and easily if you
were to contact the relevant Service directly .

The Freedom of Information Act does not oblige the council to complete
surveys, questionnaires and spreadsheets or to undertake research or data
analysis in order to comply with requests. In these cases the council will
endeavour to assist within reason but will always give priority to
providing the services the council is set up to provide. The council
acknowledges the right under S.11 of the Act for applicants to express a
preference as to whether to receive information in permanent or digest
form or to inspect the information. The council will endeavour to comply
with your preference taking into account the practicalities of doing so.

The provision of information is also subject to the following conditions:

o That the council holds a record of the information you have asked for;
o That the information is not already in the public domain and
reasonably accessible to you.
o That the enquiry is not a request for advice, personal opinion or
anything that would not be recorded.
o That the work involved in locating, retrieving, extracting and
collating the information will not exceed the cost limits set out in
the Act; and
o That the information you have requested does not fall under an
exemption set out in the Act. However, if the council chooses to use
an exemption it must, in many cases, conduct a public interest test to
make sure withholding the information rather than disclosing it best
serves the public interest.

The council reserves the right to publish your request and the council's
response on its website. Please also bear in mind that the council may ask
you to pay for postage and any substantial amounts of photocopying or
reproduction of documents. If this is the case, I will let you know.

Please address any future correspondence on this matter to me on the above
email address or by writing to the Information Rights Officer, Guildford
Borough Council, Millmead House, Millmead, Guildford GU2 4BB.

Yours sincerely

Vicki Sygrove

Information Systems Assistant

Guildford Borough Council

01483 444448

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. http://www.cryoserver.com/

Dear IRO,

By law, I believe the authority should have responded promptly and
by 1st February 2011.

Although I have received no response, to assist, I would like to
'sharpen' and reduce the scope of the original request as follows:

Please exclude all COT3 Agreements and all compromise agreements
drawn up in the following circumstances:

1. Purely redundancy situations
2. Purely PILON (pay in lieu of notice) situations
3. Equal pay claims
4. TUPE situations

Further to this, please reduce the time period to the years between
2005 and 2010 i.e. the last six years.

I am researching this particular area and aim to view trends and
movements both regionally and nationally. It would benefit myself
and the authority if the figures reached were as accurate as
possible.

When responding, please give figures in calendar year format e.g.
2005 - 1; 2006 - 3; 2007 - 2; etc.

Many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

IRO, Guildford Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your email. As you made your request under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000, the format of this response is formal in order to
meet the legal requirements set out in Part 1 of that Act.

The council does not hold a list or numbers of current employees/ ex-
employees who have signed compromise agreements directly related to the
resolving of dispute(s) grievance(s)/ internal and external
investigation(s)/ Whistleblowing incident(s) in the last 10 years. As the
Council is not required to keep these records in this way and employee
details are only kept for 10 years on employees files. Therefore, the
council does not hold the statistics you have requested and the raw data
is not held in the format anticipated by your request. In order to comply
with your request, a considerable amount of work would be required to
create this information and would require an officer to go through all
current employees/ex- employees files and several systems to extract and
analyse the data for the past 10 years. We estimate that this exercise
would exceed the costs limits set out in Section 12 of the Freedom of
Information Act. I must therefore ask that you consider this email our
notice of refusal as required by Section 17 of the Freedom of Information
Act.

However, I can confirm that the council has not had any compromise
agreements relating to the resolving of dispute(s) / grievance(s) /
internal and external investigation(s) / whistleblowing incident(s) in the
last twelve months. The council intends to monitor this in the near
future.

As part of the compromise agreement the council did not make it
conditional for the employee to forgo their right to approach the council
in the future with Freedom of
Information and/or DPA Subject Access requests under the Acts, therefore
the right to make requests was not taken away from the employee/ ex-
employee.

I trust the above information addresses your enquiry but you are welcome
to contact me if you require clarification. The council, like most public
authorities, receives a high number of requests from the media and from
commercial organisations for research and for marketing purposes and this
places a considerable burden on the council's limited resources. We
apologise if our response has taken longer than you expected as a result
of this.

If you are not satisfied with the way your request has been handled you
may write to the Council's Monitoring Officer: Richard Lingard, Guildford
Borough Council, Millmead House, Millmead, Guildford GU2 4BB.

You also have the right, under Section 50 of the Freedom of Information
Act 2000, to ask the Information Commissioner to decide whether your
request has been dealt with in line with the requirements of the Act. His
address is: The Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Yours Sincerely

Moubean Zaman

Information Systems Assistant

Guildford Borough Council

From: Paul Cardin [[1]mailto:[FOI #56653 email]]
Sent: 03 January 2011 22:52
To: IRO
Subject: Freedom of Information request - Total Annual Figures for
Compromise Agreements, etc.

Dear Guildford Borough 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

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[FOI #56653 email]
2. http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/offic...
3. mailto:[FOI #56653 email]
4. mailto:[Guildford Borough Council request email]
5. http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/contact
6. http://www.cryoserver.com/

Dear IRO,

Thanks very much for your response.

I'm afraid you appear to have missed the additional message I sent to you on 2nd February 2011, wherein I reduced the scope of the request in good faith.

A relevant extract of the message reads as follows:

"....Although I have received no response, to assist, I would like to
'sharpen' and reduce the scope of the original request as follows:

Please exclude all COT3 Agreements and all compromise agreements
drawn up in the following circumstances:

1. Purely redundancy situations
2. Purely PILON (pay in lieu of notice) situations
3. Equal pay claims
4. TUPE situations

Further to this, please reduce the time period to the years between
2005 and 2010 i.e. the last six years.

I am researching this particular area and aim to view trends and
movements both regionally and nationally. It would benefit myself
and the authority if the figures reached were as accurate as
possible.

When responding, please give figures in calendar year format e.g.
2005 - 1; 2006 - 3; 2007 - 2; etc.

Many thanks in advance"
<<<message ends>>>

With this in mind, and not wanting to resort to an internal review so early, I'd be very grateful if you could reconsider your position.

To place this request into a wider context, I have been researching this subject with ALL English Councils. To date (starting on 1st January 2011) I have received 193 full and positive responses.

Admittedly, a small number of councils did raise initial concerns regarding cost and inaccessible methods of data storage, before reconsidering their positions.

But given the overwhelming positive response so far, I believe the public interest in releasing the information outweighs the public interest in not releasing it. This view appears to be endorsed by 193 of your LGA colleagues.

Can I suggest that you query your Accounts Department? I ask this
because when employees leave in the circumstances I am describing,
they are offered a financial incentive to end their working
contracts. Your Accounts department is required to keep a detailed
electronic record of all such payments. As they should be keeping
an adequate data storage / retrieval system, 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. I don't believe that the
possession of an inadequate data storage / retrieval system
warrants the use of an exclusion under the FOI Act.

I would not want to risk using up more public money by occupying the time of a senior officer conducting an internal review. I hope that you can take the above information into full consideration before responding as soon as possible,

many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

IRO, Guildford Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Thank you for your email dated 8th February 2011. As you made your request
under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the format of this response is
formal in order to meet the legal requirements set out in Part 1 of that
Act.

The Council's Financial Services Department did not record compromise
agreement payments separately on their systems prior to 2006/07.
Therefore, as I stated in my original response dated 8th of February 2011
in order to provide the figures prior to 2006/07 would exceed the cost
limits set out in section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act. The
council's Financial Services Department hold these records for the
financial years not calendar years. Please see the figures below 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) since 2006/07 .

2009/10 - 1

2008/09 - 1

2007/08 - 2

2006/07 - 1

I trust the above information addresses your enquiry but you are welcome
to contact me if you require clarification. If you are not satisfied with
the way your request has been handled you may write to the Council's
Monitoring Officer: Richard Lingard, Guildford Borough Council, Millmead
House, Millmead, Guildford GU2 4BB.

You also have the right, under Section 50 of the Freedom of Information
Act 2000, to ask the Information Commissioner to decide whether your
request has been dealt with in line with the requirements of the Act. His
address is: The Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely

Moubean Zaman

Information Systems Assistant

show quoted sections

Dear IRO,

Many thanks for your reply,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Guildford Borough Council were one of the slower respondents of the 345 councils asked, taking 28 working days (over the statutory period) to respond positively and in full.

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 general redundancy or equal pay claims. Some councils have yet to answer this query - and to date, 65 working days have elapsed

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