Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Mendip District 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 Mendip District 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

Weaver, Lisa, Mendip District Council

3 Attachments

Customer Services

Cannards Grave Road, Shepton Mallet, Somerset BA4 5BT

Telephone: 01749 648999 Fax: 01749 344050

Email: [email address]

Minicom: 01749 341622 www.mendip.gov.uk

My Ref FOI/2011/004 Direct Line: 01749 341XXX
Please Reply to: Fiona Lyons Ext: XXX
e-mail [email address] Fax: 01749 341542

5 January 2011

Dear Paul Cardin

Re: Freedom of Information Act 2000

Request for access to information Reference Number: FOI/2011/004

Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements

I acknowledge your request for access to information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 as detailed above.

Under the Act the Council has 20 working days to comply with your request,
subject to any Exemptions that may apply. This deadline will expire on 1
February 2011.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any queries regarding
your request. I have enclosed a copy of the Council's guidance note The
Freedom of Information Act and You for your reference.

Yours sincerely

Fiona Lyons

Data Protection Officer

The contents of this e-mail are intended for the named addressee only.
This email may contain information which is confidential or privileged.
Unless you are the named addressee you may not copy or use it, act in
reliance on it, or disclose it to anyone else. If you have received this
email in error please notify Mendips Strategic ICT Dept on 01749 341270 or
by email at [email address] and then destroy it.

The Council reserves the right to monitor, record and retain any incoming
and outgoing emails for security reasons and for monitoring internal
compliance with the Council's policies including the policy relating to
email use. Email monitoring and / or blocking software may be used, emails
may also be disclosed to other people under legislation, particularly the
Freedom of Information Act 2000

Unless this email relates to Mendip District Council business it will be
regarded by the Council as personal and will not be authorized or sent on
behalf of the Council. The sender will have sole responsibility for any
legal actions or disputes that may arise.

Mendip District Council makes every effort to keep its network secure and
free from viruses. However you do need to check this email and any
attachments to it for viruses and accuracy as the Council can take no
responsibility for any viruses, errors or omissions which are transferred
or arise as a result of the transmission of this email.

show quoted sections

Weaver, Lisa, Mendip District Council

2 Attachments

Customer Services

Cannards Grave Road, Shepton Mallet, Somerset BA4 5BT

Telephone: 01749 648999 Fax: 01749 344050

Email: [email address]

Minicom: 01749 341622 www.mendip.gov.uk

My Ref FOI/2011/004 Direct Line: 01749 341XXX
Please Reply to: Fiona Lyons Ext: XXX
e-mail [email address] Fax: 01749 341542

5 January 2011

Dear Paul Cardin

Re: Freedom of Information Act 2000

Request for access to information - FOI/2011/004

Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements

With reference to your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 I
confirm that the Council does not hold the information you have requested.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any further assistance
in this matter.

Yours sincerely

Fiona Lyons

Data Protection Officer

The contents of this e-mail are intended for the named addressee only.
This email may contain information which is confidential or privileged.
Unless you are the named addressee you may not copy or use it, act in
reliance on it, or disclose it to anyone else. If you have received this
email in error please notify Mendips Strategic ICT Dept on 01749 341270 or
by email at [email address] and then destroy it.

The Council reserves the right to monitor, record and retain any incoming
and outgoing emails for security reasons and for monitoring internal
compliance with the Council's policies including the policy relating to
email use. Email monitoring and / or blocking software may be used, emails
may also be disclosed to other people under legislation, particularly the
Freedom of Information Act 2000

Unless this email relates to Mendip District Council business it will be
regarded by the Council as personal and will not be authorized or sent on
behalf of the Council. The sender will have sole responsibility for any
legal actions or disputes that may arise.

Mendip District Council makes every effort to keep its network secure and
free from viruses. However you do need to check this email and any
attachments to it for viruses and accuracy as the Council can take no
responsibility for any viruses, errors or omissions which are transferred
or arise as a result of the transmission of this email.

show quoted sections

Dear Weaver, Lisa,

Please explain a little further. You have buried a one-line vague statement within a large amount of text - a not very good response.

Please address in some more detail the requests I made in good faith to you - "does not hold" is not quite good enough, and not in keeping with the admirable purposes of the Act,

many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Weaver, Lisa, Mendip District Council

I am out of the office until Thursday 3 February 2011. If your enquiry is urgent please contact Democratic Services.

Dear Weaver, Lisa,

You asked me to contact you for further assistance, but you have not responded. As I haven't received an adequate response to this query, can I add some more context to this request?

This query is identical to one which has been sent to ALL English councils. To date, since January 1st 2011, I have had 223 (two hundred and twenty three) 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.

Please could you 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'd like to assist 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 223 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 - and regardless of cost implications.

Your response does not instil confidence in me, as you have not advised me why you 'don't hold' the information. You also haven't given me any recourse elsewhere.

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 exemption under the FOI Act.

Please could you address the second part of my original request i.e. Does the council, as part of a compromise agreement, attempt to get employees to forgo their right to approach the council in the future with Freedom of Information and/or DPA Subject Access requests under the relevant Acts? Apologies for any confusion caused by not including this in the reduced request.

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

I look forward to receiving your response,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Weaver, Lisa, Mendip District Council

3 Attachments

Customer Services

Cannards Grave Road, Shepton Mallet, Somerset BA4 5BT

Telephone: 01749 648999 Fax: 01749 344050

Email: [email address]

Minicom: 01749 341622 www.mendip.gov.uk

My Ref FOI/2011/074 Direct Line:
Please Reply to: Fiona Lyons Ext:
e-mail [email address] Fax: 01749 341542

25 February 2011

Dear Paul Cardin

Re: Freedom of Information Act 2000

Request for access to information - FOI/2011/074

Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements

With reference to your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000,
please find the information you have requested on the attached Response.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any queries relating to
your request.

Yours sincerely

Fiona Lyons

Data Protection Officer

The contents of this e-mail are intended for the named addressee only.
This email may contain information which is confidential or privileged.
Unless you are the named addressee you may not copy or use it, act in
reliance on it, or disclose it to anyone else. If you have received this
email in error please notify Mendips Strategic ICT Dept on 01749 341270 or
by email at [email address] and then destroy it.

The Council reserves the right to monitor, record and retain any incoming
and outgoing emails for security reasons and for monitoring internal
compliance with the Council's policies including the policy relating to
email use. Email monitoring and / or blocking software may be used, emails
may also be disclosed to other people under legislation, particularly the
Freedom of Information Act 2000

Unless this email relates to Mendip District Council business it will be
regarded by the Council as personal and will not be authorized or sent on
behalf of the Council. The sender will have sole responsibility for any
legal actions or disputes that may arise.

Mendip District Council makes every effort to keep its network secure and
free from viruses. However you do need to check this email and any
attachments to it for viruses and accuracy as the Council can take no
responsibility for any viruses, errors or omissions which are transferred
or arise as a result of the transmission of this email.

show quoted sections

Dear Weaver, Lisa,

Thank you for answering my query.

To make the statement "we don't hold the information" without explaining why does not serve the public very well because it leaves us frustrated and needing to know a bit more.

If I may leave a little helpful advice for the future, early, well-researched and categorical statements are the best approach to serving the public. We got there in the end but it really shouldn't have taken 39 working days.

Thanks again for the time you have devoted to this,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Mendip District Council were one of the slower respondents of the 345 councils asked, taking 39 working days (19 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