Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Hull City 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 Hull City 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

Baldwin Kirstie, Hull City Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Information Request - 000005/11

We acknowledge receipt of your information request received on 03 January
2011 which is being processed according to the Freedom of Information Act
(2000).

The legislation allows us 20 working days to respond which takes us to 31
January 2011. There are some circumstances under which this deadline may
be extended legally but we will inform you as soon as we know if these
apply.

In the interests of efficiency and the environment the Council may decide
to send you an electronic (e-mail or disk) copy of the information you
have requested rather than print it onto paper. Please contact us to
discuss alternatives if this will not be suitable for you.

Should you wish to complain about our response in any way, then this must
initially be done through the Council's internal review procedure. Please
contact the Corporate Feedback Team: Freepost RSJC-KKBE-ABXZ, Customer
Feedback Team, Hull City Council. P.O. Box 15, Hull, HU1 2AB. Telephone
(01482) 300300, Textphone (01482) 300349. E-Mail
[1][email address].

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the internal review then you
may take your complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office, the
government body established to enforce the legislation. Their details are
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 01625
545700, Email: [2][email address], web site
[3]www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.

The Council's Freedom of Information Policy, which includes the charging
policy, is available on request and from the web site
[4]www.hullcc.gov.uk. Also available is a booklet on `Accessing
Information from Hull City Council' which explains how to request
information and your rights (according to the Data Protection Act 1998 and
The Freedom of Information Act 2000).

Yours sincerely,

Information Governance

Information Governance Team, Customer Services, Hull City Council, Ground Floor,
City Treasury, Guildhall Road, Hull, HU1 2AB

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Information Governance, Hull City Council

Freedom of Information Act no. 5/11

Dear Mr Cardin,

With regard to your Freedom of Information request received on 03/01/2011,
please find some information below.

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.

We have been unable to extract and compile the information you have
requested without exceeding the time/cost limits under the Freedom of
Information Act. Human Resources records are retained by the Council for
the duration of each employee's employment plus a further 7 years (30
years where the employee has worked with children/vulnerable adults and 40
years where the employee has worked with hazardous substances) and there
are many thousand such files. Statistics about compromise agreements are
not centrally recorded and it is not possible to individually examine the
records the Council maintains for all current and former employees without
far exceeding the time/cost limits under the Act.

We are able to provide the following information which is held by our
Human Resources service and relates to compromise agreements between the
Council and employees for the last 2 years. It should be noted that the
numbers for 2010/11 are inflated by the settlement of historic equal pay
claims.

2009/10 3

2010/11 1182

We can confirm that the Council does not impose agreements upon employees
which would seek to remove their rights to access information through the
Freedom of Information or Data Protection Acts.

We hope that you will be satisfied with our response and should you
require any further information then please do not hesitate to contact
us.

Yours sincerely,

Information Governance Team

Customer Services

Hull City Council

(01482) 30030

Should you wish to complain about our response in any way, then this must
initially be done through the Council's internal review procedure. Please
contact the Corporate Feedback Team: Freepost RSJC-KKBE-ABXZ, Customer
Feedback Team, Hull City Council. P.O. Box 15, Hull, HU1 2AB. Telephone
(01482) 300300, Textphone (01482) 300349. E-Mail
[1][email address].

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the internal review then you
may take your complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office, the
government body established to enforce the legislation. Their details are
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 01625
545700, Email: [2][email address], web site
[3]www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.

The Council's Freedom of Information Policy, which includes the charging
policy, is available on request and from the web site
[4]www.hullcc.gov.uk. Also available is a booklet on `Accessing
Information from Hull City Council' which explains how to request
information and your rights (according to the Data Protection Act 1998 and
The Freedom of Information Act 2000).

Information Governance Team, Customer Services, Hull City Council, Ground Floor,
City Treasury, Guildhall Road, Hull, HU1 2AB

show quoted sections

Dear Information Governance,

Thanks very much for your response and for the information you were able to provide. I appreciate your position however this query is identical to one which has been sent to ALL English councils. So far, I have had 109 (one hundred and nine) full and detailed positive responses. These councils did not have any difficulty in responding to what most would regard as a reasonable request.

I am currently involved in research in this area and in order to
make the task somewhat more manageable, can I make the following
changes?

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 90 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

Dear Hull City Council,

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

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

You have failed to respond adequately and to answer a revised
request which reduced the scope and was made in good faith.

We are now into May 2011, over 80 working days since the original
request was made.

Please address this review and respond and update as you go along.
I'd be most grateful if some much needed dialogue and urgency was
injected into the process.

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

Information Governance, Hull City Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Internal Review Ref - 000592/11

We acknowledge receipt of your request for an internal review of your
Freedom of Information request, which is being dealt with in accordance
with the Council complaints procedure and will be responded to within 20
working days. We shall be contacting you again with the outcome of your
internal review.

INTERNAL REVIEW REQUEST - ref

I am writing to request an internal review of Leicestershire County

Council's handling of my FOI request 'Total Annual Figures for

Compromise Agreements, etc.'.

You have failed to respond adequately and to answer a revised

request which reduced the scope and was made in good faith.

We are now into May 2011, over 80 working days since the original

request was made.

Please address this review and respond and update as you go along.

I'd be most grateful if some much needed dialogue and urgency was

injected into the process.

ORIGINAL REQUEST - ref

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.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome or conduct of the internal
review then you may take your complaint to the Information Commissioner's
Office, the government body established to enforce the legislation. Their
details are Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF,
telephone 01625 545 700, Email: [1][email address], web site
[2]www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.

The Council's Freedom of Information Policy, which includes the charging
policy, is available on request and from the web site
[3]www.hullcc.gov.uk. Also available is a booklet on `Accessing
Information from Hull City Council' which explains how to request
information and your rights (according to the Data Protection Act 1998 and
The Freedom of Information Act 2000).

Yours sincerely,

Sophie Andrews

On behalf of:

Mr Eddie Coates-Madden

Insight & Strategy Manager

Customer Services, Hull City Council, Ground Floor,

City Treasury, Guildhall Road, Hull, HU1 2AB

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Dear Information Governance,

Dear Insight and Strategy Manager,

Do you have any insight into why it took 3 months to respond to a message which reduced the scope of the original request? And any insight into why there was no apology or acknowledgment of your very poor response?

Such insights would display a level of courtesy to your public and provide some reassurance that you are in fact committed to openness and transparency,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Coates-Madden Eddie, Hull City Council

1 Attachment

<<0001_02 FOI INTERNAL REVIEW RESPONSE LETTER.DOC>>

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Dear Coates-Madden Eddie,

Okay. Please change that to Hull City Council. Your council. Why did you acknowledge the request and then take the best part of a month to alert me to my mistake?

The original request is now well over 100 working days old.

Will this do?

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear Hull City Council,

Your justification for not doing anything is flawed. My request for an internal review was lodged following a 3 month hiatus in which no response was received to a reduction in the scope of the request - lodged in January.

In other words, the only thing wrong with my request for an internal review was the NAME OF THE COUNCIL CONCERNED. i.e. I mistakenly inserted 'Leicestershire' for Hull.

I'd be very grateful, 110 working days in, if you do not seize upon any more trivial, but convenient reasons for sitting on your hands,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Coates-Madden Eddie, Hull City Council

1 Attachment

<<0001_02 FOI INTERNAL REVIEW RESPONSE LETTER POST REFINED.DOC>>

show quoted sections

Dear Coates-Madden Eddie,

I appreciate receiving these figures, however this is a refusal to my internal review and I plan to take this to the Information Commissioner's Office where I will appeal.

Incidentally, you failed to provide an answer to the second part of my original request, sent in early January 2011 i.e.

"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."

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear Hull City Council,

I would like to offer an apology for another mistake I've made with this request. You answered the second part of my request (FOI / DP gagging clauses) on the 26th January and I missed it.

Sorry,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Hull City Council went to internal review, before deciding against supplying the information. This internal review failed and I will now appeal to 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.

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