Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Hartlepool 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 Hartlepool 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 sign and 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

Freedomofinformation, Hartlepool Council

Dear Sirs

Further to your request for information regarding compromise agreements, please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

The request is refused as exceeding the "appropriate limit" stated in the Freedom of Information (Fees and Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004. This is because the Council does not hold a central record of compromise agreements that have been entered in to with employees or former employees.

Section 12 of the Act makes provision for public authorities to refuse requests for information where the cost of dealing with them would exceed the appropriate limit, which for a Local Authority is £450. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 18 hours in determining whether the department holds the information, locating, retrieving and extracting the information.

In order to provide you with the information on the scale that you have requested would require a search of every personnel file held by the Authority. It is estimated that it will take us in excess of 18 hours to determine appropriate material and locate, retrieve and extract the information in reference to your request.

I can however advise that I have been able to ascertain figures from the Councils legal division, regarding compromise agreements during employment tribunal matters only and can advise that from 2003 there have been 18 compromise agreements entered in to.

In relation to the request regarding "annual figures for the number of current employees /ex-employees (including teaching staff) 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 sign and forgo their right to approach the council in the future with Freedom of Information and/or DPA Subject Access requests under the relevant Acts", there are zero agreements that have this requirement.

I hope that this information deals with your request, however if you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original request and should be sent to Chief Executives Department, Legal Services Division, Level 3, Civic Centre, Hartlepool, TS24 8AY, [email address].

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, www.ico.gov.uk.

Kind Regards

Hayley Martin

Constitutional & Administrative Solicitor
Legal Division
Civic Centre - Level 3
Tel: 01429 523182
Fax: 01429 523481
[email address]
www.hartlepool.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Dear Freedomofinformation,

Thanks very much for your response. I appreciate your position
however this query is identical to one which has been sent to ALL
English councils. So far, I have had 153 (one hundred and fifty
three) full and detailed positive responses. These councils did not
have any difficulty in responding to what they appeared to regard
as a reasonable request.

I am currently involved in research in this area and in order to
assist and to make your task more manageable, can I make the
following reductions in scope?

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 a total of 153 councils have not found any difficulty, I
imagine that they may be taking a different approach to searching
for the information.

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 and look forward
to your response,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Freedomofinformation, Hartlepool Council

Dear Sirs

Thank you for the clarification, I will go back to the client department to see if this assists their search.

I can however advise that the 18 agreements referred to, were obtained through the Council's legal department. This figure included 12 Equal Pay, 2 unfair dismissals, 2 constructive dismissal and 2 TUPE unfair dismissal cases.

I will contact you further when I hear back from my client department.

Kind Regards

Hayley Martin

Constitutional & Administrative Solicitor
Legal Division
Civic Centre - Level 3
Tel: 01429 523182
Fax: 01429 523481
[email address]
www.hartlepool.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Dear Hayley,

Thanks for your help.

Your legal department, in the public interest, should also be able to produce information regarding compromise agreements issued before any tribunal proceedings were initiated.

Your Accounts department also, in the public interest, will have a record of payments made / compromise agreements reached which were done in order to avoid tribunals and as full and final settlements,

many thanks in advance for your help,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

alan harvey flounders left an annotation ()

Hello Paul
I applaud most strongly your efforts, to raise awareness of maladministration and in some cases blatant criminal dishonesty which appears to be endemic in many local Councils, well done,

The 153 positive responses from other councils is impressive,

You are not alone in your endeavours regarding Hartlepool Council, here you enter a world of day-dreams. A never-never-land, a distant planet, who else would elect a monkey as Town Mayor, again and again? The baboon now thinks he is a real politician.

From my own experiences over the past two-three years to get a honest and truthful answer to a F.O.I. request or a courteous reply to a Formal Complaint, from Hartlepool Council, is very difficult if not totally impossible, their own on line system is a total disaster, most of what I have posted, disappears into cyberspace, never to be seen again. they even tried to have me banned/.gagged from using this site, What Do They Know,

they most certainly” must “ have some things to hide and in my case, will lie to conceal the truth, it certainly boosts my spirits to see enthusiastic and articulate people like yourself and others asking very valid questions.

I am in the process of constructing my own amateur blog.http://alanflounders.blogspot.com/ to record evidence of my local councils incompetence and possible criminal activities. Again, well done Paul.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Thanks Alan,

I've now had 184 positive responses.

No council has admitted to blocking people making FOI / DPA requests in the future. Apart from Cheshire West and Chester Council - but I didn't place the FOI request with them. Here's a link to it:

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

That's 1 gagged individual in a total of 1,812 relevant declared compromise agreements. Of course, I'll be going to the Local Government Association for an opinion on their member's behaviour.

It's also revealing that Cheshire West and Chester Council are developing plans to charge the public and journalists for the privilege of making FOI requests in the future. In the light of this, and their Kafkaesque treatment of one individual, one can only assume that they've got something they want to keep firmly under wraps:

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

Freedomofinformation, Hartlepool Council

Dear Paul

Further to recent clarification I have gone back to my client department
and as well as the Compromise Agreements referred to previously (obtained
from the Council's legal department), I have now ascertained the following
information from Human Resources:

+------------------------------------+
|Date |Number |
| | |
| | |
|------------------+-----------------|
|2005-6 |1 |
| | |
| | |
|------------------+-----------------|
|2006-7 |18 |
| | |
| | |
|------------------+-----------------|
|2007-8 |23 |
| | |
| | |
|------------------+-----------------|
|2008-9 |20 |
| | |
| | |
|------------------+-----------------|
|2009-10 |18 |
| | |
| | |
|------------------+-----------------|
|2010-11 |15 |
| | |
| | |
+------------------------------------+

I hope that this information deals with your request, however if you are
dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask
for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted
within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original
request and should be sent to Chief Executives Department, Legal Services
Division, Level 3, Civic Centre, Hartlepool, TS24 8AY,
[email address].

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information
Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9
5AF, www.ico.gov.uk.

Kind Regards

Hayley Martin

Constitutional & Administrative Solicitor

Legal Division

Civic Centre - Level 3

Tel: 01429 523182

Fax: 01429 523481

[email address]

www.hartlepool.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Dear Freedomofinformation,

Many thanks for your reply,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Hartlepool Council were one of the slower respondents of the 345 councils asked, taking 31 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