Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Leicester 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 Leicester City 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 (including teaching staff) 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 (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.

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

officeservices officeservices, Leicester City Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin,

Re your recent request made under the Freedom of Information Act regarding
current/ex employees of the Authority who have signed compromise
agreements, please refer to the attached acknowledgement.

Thanks very much,

STEVE LEA
OFFICE SERVICES
LEICESTER CITY COUNCIL

foia foia, Leicester City Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin

Please find attached Leicester City Council's response to your recent Freedom of Information request.

Regards

Lynn Wyeth
Head of Information Governance
Information Governance Team
External Tel: 0116 252 7028
Internal Tel: 29 7028
Email: [Leicester City Council request email]

Dear Lynn Wyeth,

Many thanks for your response.

I would like to take up your offer of narrowing the scope of the request and would like to do this as follows.

Please exclude any compromise agreements drawn up in the following circumstances:

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

Further to this, in the spirit of making this query more manageable, please restrict the time period to between 2005 and 2010 i.e. the last 6 years.

If you'll allow me to place this request into a wider context, I am researching the subject and have made an identical query of ALL English councils. So far, the responses are positive in that 90 councils have responded quickly, positively and in full.

I conclude from this that there are effective ways of querying the information you hold. I'd hope that in the public interest, you possess a data management system which can cope with reasonable requests from the public - failing this, perhaps a phone call to the legal department, where records should be held of (usually) ex-employees who have signed compromise agreements (and usually received an incentive payment to prevent them from making financial or legal approaches in the future). Your Accounts department is another potential avenue - they are required to hold an electronic system with relevant headings, all likely to be stored in an efficient and searchable database.

I hope this information helps you to narrow your search. I'm not sure that "inadequate data storage and retrieval systems" are enough to warrant any exemption under the FOI Act.

many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

officeservices officeservices, Leicester City Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin,

Re your recent revised request made under the Freedom of Information Act
regarding compromise agreements, please refer to the attached
acknowledgement.

Thanks very much,

STEVE LEA
OFFICE SERVICES
LEICESTER CITY COUNCIL

foia foia, Leicester City Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin

Please find attached Leicester City Council's response to your recent Freedom of Information request.

Regards

Lynn Wyeth
Head of Information Governance
Information Governance Team
External Tel: 0116 252 7028
Internal Tel: 29 7028
Email: [Leicester City Council request email]

Dear foia foia,

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. To date, since January 1st 2011, I have had 215
(two hundred and fifteen) full and detailed positive responses.
These councils did not have any difficulty in responding to my request.

I am currently involved in research in this area, with the aim of viewing trends and movements nationally. When your response didn’t arrive within the first 20 working days, I reduced the scope, in good faith and in order to make the task more manageable.

I asked if you could exclude COT3 agreements, also 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. Purely voluntary severance situations

I also assisted you further, by narrowing the time period down to between the years 2005 to 2010 i.e. the last six years.

Given that a total of 215 councils did not find any difficulty, I imagine that they may be taking a different approach to locating the information. They may also be of the opinion, as I am, that the public interest in releasing this information outweighs the public interest in not releasing it.

Your response does not instil confidence in me, as you have not advised me of any plans to replace what appears to be a cumbersome and inadedquate data storage / retrieval system. The public are not being served well here and there appear to be no plans to remedy that - despite the FOI Act being in place for the last 11 years.

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’m wary of using public money wisely and don’t want to resort to an
internal review too quickly, and I would ask you to reconsider the
request in light of all the above.

I look forward to receiving your response,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

foia foia, Leicester City Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I am sorry that you think our response is unhelpful, but I am afraid that
our previous filing systems and record keeping were so devolved, that my
first response still stands.

I had already contacted both Finance and Legal Services about the request
and they have explained in depth the situation to me. The original
response to your request explained the different areas we would have to
search. Leicester City Council had spent many years with a Departmental
structure, and teams within those departments often operated on a very
devolved basis, and we did not necessarily have centralised systems. Legal
Services, until recently, a trading arm in its own right, had individual
solicitors who were responsible for keeping their own case files and the
record keeping; there was no central system or log. Our Accounts
department does of course keep a detailed electronic record of all such
payments centrally once the data is fed in from Deaprtments, but it is not
easily searchable, and that is the problem in locating the information.
There are not costcodes to differentiate between the very specific types
of cases you have asked, or the very specific information you have
requested within individual compromise agreements for on the finance
system.

Hopefully future systems will be more easily searchable as, contrary to
your implication, we are taking measures to improve record keeping systems
and have implemented a new Finance system recently, are moving to
electronic filing and an EDRMS and also I understand that a central
register is to be kept in Legal Services.

I can assure you that I would have no hesitation in releasing the
information to you if it could be easily located, and I cannot see
anywhere where I have suggested that I would not be happy to do so. We
also have a duty to protect public funds however, and if a request will
take over 18 hours to comply with, as this one will, we do not feel as a
Council it can be justified. This is why we have adopted the policy as a
Council to refuse such requests, as we are entitled to do so under The
Act.

I understand your frustration when other Councils can provide the
information, but I'm afraid we simply cannot do so easily and within the
limit with the historical information we hold; please be assured I
sincerely wish we had the systems to do so. I can only reiterate that
to go through hundreds of individual archived, mainly paper based files,
for the last 6 years, to interrogate each one and ascertain which cases
fall under your revised request would take in excess of 18 hours, as
demonstrated in our previous response.

I'm sorry that this response will be disappointing. If you wish to
appeal I will of course escalate your request to a senior independent
manager to investigate on your behalf.

Yours sincerely

Lynn Wyeth
Head of Information Governance

Dear Leicester City Council,

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

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

Thank you for explaining the situation in more detail. As it has now become unavoidable, please carry out an internal review, taking into account all the information I have supplied to date.

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

foia foia, Leicester City Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin

Please find the response to your recent appeal.

Regards

Lynn Wyeth
Head of Information Governance

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Leicester City Council went to internal review, before deciding against supplying the information.

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