Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Northumberland County 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 Northumberland County Council,

Please supply totals for the following:

Since the inception of Northumberland County Council, or as far as records go back, the annual figures for the total number of current employees or ex-employees of Northumberland County 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 Northumberland County Council's legal team, 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.

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

Harrison, John, Northumberland County Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your request for information on compromise agreements. Your
request was received on 4^th January and I am dealing with it under the
terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

In some circumstances a fee may be payable and if that is the case, I will
let you know the likely charges before proceeding.

If you have any queries about this matter please contact me. Please
remember to quote the reference number above in any future communication.

Regards

John

John Harrison

Complaints and Freedom of Information Officer

Legal Services

County Hall

Morpeth

Northumberland

NE61 2EF

01670 534025

[email address]

Northumberland made the following annotations

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Freedom Of Information, Northumberland County Council

Dear Mr Cardin

In response to your Freedom of Information request dated 4 January 2011, I have been advised that since Local Government Reorganisation on 1 April 2009 there have been 5 employees/ex-employees who have signed compromise agreements. None of them include a clause that restricted FOI requests.

If you are unhappy with the way your request for information has been handled, you can request an internal review by writing to the Freedom of Information Officer.

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have a right by Section 50 of the Act to apply to the Information Commissioner for a decision as to whether your request has been dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Act at:

The Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Tel: 01625 545 745 / Fax: 01625 524 510
Email: [email address]

There is no charge for making an appeal.

I hope this satisfies your request.

Regards

Donna

Donna Jackson
Freedom of Information Office
Northumberland County Council
County Hall
Morpeth
Northumberland
NE61 2EF

* (01670) 534505 | Fax: (01670) 533241
* [Northumberland County Council request email]
* http://www.northumberland.gov.uk

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Northumberland County Council were one of the slower respondents of the 345 councils asked, taking 21 working 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