Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Luton 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 refused by Luton Borough Council.

Dear Luton 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 (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

~LBC Freedom of Information, Luton Borough Council

Thank you for your FOI request which is receiving attention. In accordance with the legislation we have 20 working days within which to respond, giving a deadline in this case of 2nd February 2011.

Rose

Rose Stipta
Corporate Information Officer
Luton Borough Council
Tel 01582 546398
Fax 01582 546451
Email [email address]
Website www.luton.gov.uk

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Dear ~LBC Freedom of Information,

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

Dear Luton Borough Council,

I'd be very grateful if you could respond to the reduced request I
sent in good faith some weeks ago.

I am disappointed in your lack of response to date, given that my
first request was sent as long ago as 4th January 2011 (over six weeks ago).

To avoid confusion, please also answer the second part of the
original request i.e. Does the Council use gagging clauses in the
area of FOI / DPA as part of their compromise agreements?

Many thanks in advance,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Stipta, Rosemary, Luton Borough Council

I would first like to apologise for the delay in responding to your request below.

I advise that there is no central Council-wide record of such settlements so the information that you have requested is not readily available.

As you are no doubt aware Section 12.1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 states that, where the authority estimates that the cost of compliance exceeds the appropriate limit (currently £450 specified in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004), there is no obligation on the public authority to comply with such a request for information. Collating the information you have requested would take a considerable amount of time and the cost thereof would almost certainly exceed £450 and is therefore declined on the basis of disproportionate effort.

If you are unhappy with our response, please write to me, Rosemary Stipta, Corporate Information Officer at Town Hall, Luton, Beds, LU1 2BQ, so that I can arrange investigation. If you remain unhappy after the conclusion of the Council’s internal complaints procedure you may apply to the Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow SK9 5AF.

Rose

Rose Stipta
Corporate Information Officer
Luton Borough Council
Tel 01582 546398
Fax 01582 546451
Email [email address]
Website www.luton.gov.uk

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Dear Stipta, Rosemary,

Many thanks for your response.

Whilst I consider my response, and whether to apply for an internal review, please address the second part of the original query i.e. Does the council or has it ever attempted, as part of a compromise agreement, to insert "gagging clauses" aimed at restricting a person's statutory querying rights with regard to future FOI / DPA requests for information and data?

This is not additional to the information submitted to date, and I look forward to a response in the meantime,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Stipta, Rosemary, Luton Borough Council

Thank you for your further email.

The Council does not currently try to restrict future access to information in current Compromise Agreements. Although unlikely that this has been done in the past it cannot be said with certainty that this has always been the case. To establish whether it has been done or attempted in the past would involve a review of all the compromise agreements and communications leading up to their execution. The cost of such an exercise would exceed the £450 threshold.

Rose

Rose Stipta
Corporate Information Officer
Luton Borough Council
Tel 01582 546398
Fax 01582 546451
Email [email address]
Website www.luton.gov.uk

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Dear Stipta, Rosemary,

Thanks for your response. I'm afraid as a concerned member of the public, I require a definite answer to this part of the query. A 'yes' or a 'no'.

I have received 230 full and positive responses from English councils to an identical query since 1st January 2011. From this total (and from another separate request), there are now two councils who have admitted to (controversially) including such "gagging clauses".

I'd request that you make a special attempt to give a definite response to this part of the request. It may be possible to source a positive or negative answer from your legal department.

many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Stipta, Rosemary, Luton Borough Council

Thank you for your further email. The answer I gave you previously came from our legal department. I am afraid we are unable to give you any other answer because we don't record the information on a central database and would need to interrogate each individual case, which clearly represents disproportionate effort and would take many hours of work, even to get your "simple" answer.

Rose

Rose Stipta
Corporate Information Officer
Luton Borough Council
Tel 01582 546398
Fax 01582 546451
Email [email address]
Website www.luton.gov.uk

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Dear Luton Borough Council,

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

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

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. It took the best part of 2 months along with further promptint, to receive the first explanation of the council's position.

3. You can't give a categorical response to the second part of the question - regarding the use of FOI / DPA related "gagging clauses"

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, 240 (two hundred and forty) councils have responded positively and in full. We have had eleven years of FOI and I would have hoped that the 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 since 1st January 2011.

I don't think that an inadequate method of storing and retrieving information is 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

Dear Luton Borough Council,

You didn't acknowledge my request for an internal review, sent over a month ago.

Please send an update on where you are up to with this. The response is long overdue, given that the original request was lodged in early January,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

~LBC Freedom of Information, Luton Borough Council

I do apologise for the lack of an acknowledgement, which was an oversight on my part. I have now chased for a response for you and would hope to have this in the next couple of days. I can only offer my apologies for the delay.

Rose

Rose Stipta
Corporate Information Officer
Luton Borough Council
Tel 01582 546398
Fax 01582 546451
Email [email address]
Website www.luton.gov.uk

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~LBC Freedom of Information, Luton Borough Council

1 Attachment

I attach a scanned copy of the response to the internal review request you submitted below.

Rose

Rose Stipta
Corporate Information Officer
Luton Borough Council
Tel 01582 546398
Fax 01582 546451
Email [email address]
Website www.luton.gov.uk

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Luton Borough 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.