Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Kirklees 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 Kirklees Borough Council,

Please supply Annual 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 provide the figures in the following format e.g. 2006 - 2; 2007 - 4; 2008 - 0; 2010 - 6; etc.

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

Freedom Info, Kirklees Borough Council

Thank you for your recent enquiry.

I have passed this onto the relevant service(s) and will contact you again
once I have receive their reply.

Yours sincerely

Information Access Team

e: [email address]

Freedom Info, Kirklees Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I refer to your above enquiry which is due by 2 February.

I am writing to advise you that we are still collating the information for
this FOI and will need a few more days before it is complete.

Please be assured this matter is receiving attention and a response will
be issued as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

Information Access Team

E: [email address]

Dear Freedom Info,

Thanks very much for your update. It may assist you if I narrow the subject matter down to the following areas.

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)

May I also restrict the time period covered to between the years 2005 and 2010 i.e. the last six years. Hopefully this will help you to complete the task sooner. Thanks for your hard work on this,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Freedom Info, Kirklees Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I refer to your recent enquiry relating to the above and apologise for the
delay in replying.

Please find below the Council's response:

We do not store this information in a central database. To answer your
query it would be necessary to check our payroll systems to identify
employees who have left the organisation following a compromise agreement,
the time this would take would exceed the appropriate limit of £450. This
figure represents the estimated

cost of one person spending 18 hours checking each file manually for the
information you

require and under Section 12 (appropriate limit and fees) of the Freedom
of Information Act 2000, the Council is not obliged to comply with your
request.

However, the HR Service are in most cases involved in Compromise
Agreements and have been able to provide the estimates below.  

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 disputes, grievances,  investigation and
whistle blowing incidents.

+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
|Year |No. of Compromise Agreements|
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
|2005 |2 |
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
|2006 |6 |
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
|2007 |14 |
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
|2008 |10 |
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
|2009 |9 |
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
|2010 |19 |
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
| | |
| | |
|NB These figures are an estimate based on | |
|information collated across the HR Service | |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+

Yours sincerely

Information Access Team

E: [email address]

Dear Freedom Info,

Thanks for your response.

To put this request into a wider context, I am currently researching compromise agreements across ALL English Councils. I have received 193 full and positive responses since 1st January 2010. The vast majority of these local authorities did not find the request at all problematic.

I conclude from this that the public interest in releasing the information outweighs the public interest or any risks / costs in not releasing the information. 193 of your LGA colleagues appear to endorse this position.

I thank you for going as far as you felt necessary. However, before we proceed to an internal review, please could you advise how you reached the 'estimates' that were provided. Your response in providing estimates is a unique one to date and I would appreciate an explanation.

I would also ask that you reconsider my request in light of the above wider context. I would not want to proceed to an internal review too quickly, and incur the extra costs that would need to be drawn from the public purse,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Freedom Info, Kirklees Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I refer to your email below and have noted your comments.

I shall be in touch once I have received a reply from our HR Service.

Yours sincerely

Information Access Team

E: [email address]

show quoted sections

Freedom Info, Kirklees Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I refer to your email below regarding the above freedom of information request.

The original information provided was obtained by consulting with HR Colleagues as HR are usually involved in Compromise Agreements.

As explained in my original reply, to provide a more detailed figure would entail carrying out a thorough search of all individual payroll records. Kirklees Council have over 20,000 records and would need to identify leavers, the reason for leaving and then research each individual case to identify whether a compromise agreement was made.

The council's Payroll & Personnel system records do not record compromise agreements so we would have to manually go through the payroll records of each employee identified.

Council leavers for the stipulated dates are as follows:

2005/06 – 4,428
2006/07 – 4,475
2007/08 – 3,941
2008/09 – 3,389
2009/10 – 3,942

Before 2009 all Council leaver files are paper based.

As previously stated, Section 12 of the Freedom of Information 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 local government is set at £450. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 3.5 working days in determining whether the department holds the information, locating, retrieving and extracting the information.

We estimate that it will take us in excess of 3.5 working days to determine appropriate material and locate, retrieve and extract the information in reference to your request. Therefore, your request will not be processed further.

You may wish to refine your request by narrowing its scope by being more specific about what information you particularly wish to obtain, including any dates or period of time relevant to the information required.

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 letter and should be addressed to the Monitoring Officer. This is the Head of Legal Services at Legal Services, Civic Centre III, High Street, Huddersfield HD1 2TG.

If you are still not satisfied with the outcome you would have the right to appeal to the Information Commissioner for a decision as to whether your request had been dealt with in accordance with the Act. The Information Commissioner’s website is at www.ico.gov.uk and gives more information about the role and duties of the Commissioner.

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Yours sincerely

Information Access Team

E: [email address]

show quoted sections

Dear Kirklees Borough Council,

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

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

Thanks for your response and for the time you have devoted to my query.

Your decision not to release the information is unique for a number of reasons:

1. A large number of councils who returned a similar 'costs' exemption response were, like yourself, offered a subsequent reduction in the scope of the initial request. These councils went on to reconsider before proceeding with a full and detailed answer. Whereas you have insisted on a refusal.

2. You provided an estimate. I asked you to explain how you'd reached these figures. No explanation was given in your response.

3. You have not addressed the second question within the original request 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."

Please take into account all the information I have submitted to date. To give you a picture of the wider context here, this request has been made to ALL English Councils above a certain size. To date, since 1st January 2011, 238 (two hundred and thirty eight) councils have responded positively and in full. We have had eleven years of FOI and I would have hoped that your council would have been working towards an effective data storage / retrieval system that works with the public interest in mind. You have not advised me of any plans to do so and appear to be happy to continue maintaining an unresponsive system.

It is not right that the public suffers and obstacles are placed in the way of their information because you are persevering with the upkeep of a cumbersome data storage system. Particularly in light of the positive response from hundreds of your LGA colleagues.1st January 2011, by 208 local authorities.

I don't think that your possession and maintenance of a cumbersome, inadequate method of storing and retrieving information is an adequate justification for refusal.

I also believe that the public interest in releasing this information outweighs the public interest in not releasing it - regardless of the costs involved. Costs which seem to be occasioned by the detrimental (to the public) effect of your own inadequate systems.

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

Freedom Info, Kirklees Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I confirm receipt of your request for a review of the handling of your request for "Total Annual Figures for Compomise Agreements, etc", and that a review will be carried out by an officer independent of the information access process.

You will receive the response to the review in due course.

Regards

Information Governance Team
Legal & Governance
Email: [email address]
Telephone: 01484 221744
Fax: 01484 221293

show quoted sections

Dear Freedom Info,

It's nearly a month since I requested an internal review which you kindly acknowledged.

Please can you provide an update the situation?

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Freedom Info, Kirklees Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

The internal review of your FoI request is being conducted by one of our Senior Legal Officers.

He has been in discussion with colleagues in Internal Audit and Legal Services to try and identify records which could be accessed to answer your request within the fees regulations limit of 18 hours. Colleagues in Legal are going through some electronic records which appear capable of providing a definitive answer as to how many of the relevant compromise agreements were dealt with by Legal over certain periods and will be checking with Human Resources as to whether there are any equivalent records for compromise agreements dealt with by HR.

To complete the process will take a further few weeks.

I hope this is helpful to you. We will keep you informed of progress.

Regards

Information Access Team
Legal & Governance
Email: [email address]
Telephone: 01484 221744
Fax: 01484 221293

show quoted sections

Dear Freedom Info,

Hi. I'm waiting to be informed of progress. The 'few weeks' has elapsed and it's now late May.

Please can you provide me with an update?

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Freedom Info, Kirklees Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I refer to your email below and apologise for the delay in replying to your request for an internal review.

I confirm that a response will be provided before the end of the week.

Yours sincerely

Information Access Team

E: [email address]

This email and any attachments are confidential. If you have received it in error - notify the sender immediately, delete it from your system, and do not use, copy or disclose the information in any way. Kirklees Council monitors all emails sent or received.

show quoted sections

Dermot Pearson, Kirklees Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I am writing to you as the person nominated by the Council's Monitoring
Officer to conduct a review into the handling of your Freedom of
Information Request dated 4 January 2011, as clarified by your email of 25
January 2011.  I apologise for the delay in responding to you.

I refer to your Freedom of Information Request dated 4 January 2011 which
was in the following terms:

Please supply Annual 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 provide the figures in the following format e.g. 2006 - 2;
2007 - 4; 2008 - 0; 2010 - 6; etc.

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.

You subsequently clarified your request by email dated 25 January 2011,
which stated:

Thanks very much for your update. It may assist you if I narrow the
subject matter down to the following areas.

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)

May I also restrict the time period covered to between the years
2005 and 2010 i.e. the last six years. Hopefully this will help you
to complete the task sooner. Thanks for your hard work on this.

You received a response from the Council dated 8 February 2011 which
provided the following information:

I refer to your recent enquiry relating to the above and apologise for the
delay in replying.

Please find below the Council's response:

We do not store this information in a central database. To answer your
query it would be necessary to check our payroll systems to identify
employees who have left the organisation following a compromise agreement,
the time this would take would exceed the appropriate limit of £450.
This
figure represents the estimated

cost of one person spending 18 hours checking each file manually for the
information you

require and under Section 12 (appropriate limit and fees) of the Freedom
of Information Act 2000, the Council is not obliged to comply with your
request.

However, the HR Service are in most cases involved in Compromise
Agreements and have been able to provide the estimates below.

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 disputes, grievances, investigation and
whistle blowing incidents.

+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
|Year |No. of Compromise Agreements|
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
|2005 |2 |
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
|2006 |6 |
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
|2007 |14 |
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
|2008 |10 |
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
|2009 |9 |
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
|2010 |19 |
|-------------------------------------------+----------------------------|
| | |
| | |
|NB These figures are an estimate based on | |
|information collated across the HR Service | |

Following further correspondence between you and the Council's information
access team you requested a review of the response you had received by
email dated 1 March 2011 and raised concerns about:

o The use of estimated figures and the lack of explanation of how they
were produced;
o The lack of a response to your second query about agreements in
relation to Freedom of Information and Data Protection rights;
o Positive responses from other councils; and
o A lack of records management.

I have asked colleagues to review the electronic records held by Council's
Legal and Governance department which relate to compromise agreements
concluded between 2005 and 2010 in order to identify agreements which
would fall within the scope of your clarified request.  These records
relate only to cases in which there were compromise agreements and were
therefore limited in number and did not raise any issues under the Freedom
of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees)
Regulations 2004.  My colleagues have done so and the numbers of
agreements identified are as follows:

2005       nil

2006       1

2007       nil

2008       2

2009       4

2010       8

I trust this deals with the first part of your request.

With regard to the second part of your request, I can confirm that the
Council has never required any employee to forego their rights under the
Freedom of Information Act or Data Protection Act as part of any such
agreement and would not do so because the legislation does provide for
individuals to be able to contract out of their statutory rights. 

I have also considered the further concerns you raise about the handling
of your request.  The issue of records management seems to be one of
identifying the correct records to interrogate rather than not holding
records in a coherent way.  I would agree that the use of estimated
figures is inappropriate when actual figures are held and I can only
apologise for the previous lack of response to the second part of your
request.

Please let me know if you have any queries.

Regards

Dermot Pearson

Senior Legal Officer

01484 221437

Dear Dermot Pearson,

It has taken an exceedingly long time but thanks for your positive response.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin