Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to North Somerset 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 North Somerset Council,

Please supply Annual totals for the following:

As far as records go back, the annual figures for the total
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

Emma Hearton, North Somerset Council

1 Attachment

<<FOI20110009ACK.doc>>

Dear Mr Cardin,

Please find attached our acknowledgement of your Freedom of Information
request.

Yours sincerely

Emma Hearton

FOI & DPA Officer

Audit, Risk & Information Service

Finance & Resources

North Somerset Council

 

Tel:    01934 42 7390
Fax:   01275 884468
Post: Town Hall, Walliscote Grove Road,  Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1UJ

Web: [1]www.n-somerset.gov.uk

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Dear Emma Hearton,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Emma Hearton, North Somerset Council

I am out of the office and unable to respond to any emails until Friday 4
February 2011. If your email is urgent please contact Bobby Turner on
01934 427609 or [email address] or alternatively please
contact Gary Shipsey on 01934 427394 or [email address]

Kind Regards

Emma

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Emma Hearton, North Somerset Council

1 Attachment

<<FOI20110009ETR.doc>>

Dear Mr Cardin,

Please find attached our response to your Freedom of Information request.

Yours sincerely

Emma Hearton

FOI & DPA Officer

Audit, Risk & Information Service

Finance & Resources

North Somerset Council

 

Tel:    01934 42 7390
Fax:   01275 884468
Post: Town Hall, Walliscote Grove Road,  Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1UJ

Web: [1]www.n-somerset.gov.uk

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Dear Emma Hearton,

Many thanks for your response, and for addressing the second part of the initial request - regarding ‘gagging clauses’ used to restrict employee’s FOI / DPA rights in the future.

Although the response was delayed, and didn’t address the precise requirements of the ‘reduction in scope’ message I sent in good faith, I think it also suffers from not addressing the issues from a fair-minded point of view.

Allow me to give you a broader context to this request. I have lodged the same query with ALL English Councils. My first request was made on 1st January 2011. In the last 40 days or so, I have had a steady return of positive, detailed and helpful responses.

To date, there are 196 responses – all were happy to address the requirements, the vast majority to the letter, and did not raise any issues regarding confidentiality or risk of identifying individuals.

I believe that the public interest in releasing this information outweighs the public interest in not releasing it – and certainly outweighs any risk of breaching confidentiality or identifying the individuals concerned.

I say this for 2 major reasons:

1. 196 of your LGA colleagues have responded in full

2. I requested total annual figures for the number or quantity of compromise agreements only – not financial amounts, personal details and certainly not information drawn from the sensitive subject matter of any of these agreements.

I would be very grateful if you could re-read my initial request, and also the second email which significantly reduced the scope (both in subject matter and time period covered) and attempt to fulfil it after reconsidering the questions in light of the above information. This information is provided in good faith and to assist you.

I do not want to go straight to an internal review – as I wish to be totally reasonable, and avoid any additional public money being needlessly spent in involving senior staff.

Many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

FoI, North Somerset Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Please take this email as confirmation your query has been passed to the relevant team and we will respond in due course.

If you require any further information or assistance please do not hesitate in contacting me.

Yours sincerely

Emma Hearton

FOI & DPA Officer

Audit, Risk & Information Service

Finance & Resources

North Somerset Council

 

Tel:    01934 42 7390
Fax:   01275 884468
Post: Town Hall, Walliscote Grove Road,  Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1UJ

Web: www.n-somerset.gov.uk

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Dear FoI,

Thanks for your response, but 'in due course' is looking 'undue' as we're now into March.

I'd appreciate a response as soon as possible,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear North Somerset Council,

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

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

I'm afraid I did contact you in early March,as advised, but you didn't reply. Please take into account all the information I have supplied since early January. We're now into March, and as an update, 272 English councils have responded positively and in full.

We are now into the 11th year of Freedom of Information and I'd appreciate it if you attached a greater urgency to such requests, in a similar manner to your LGA colleagues. I have to say, I am disappointed by your apparent disinterest regarding this request.

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

Gary Shipsey, North Somerset Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your email. Please accept my apologies for the delay in
responding to your query about our response of 08-Feb-11.

I have discuss the request, and the issues raise in your email of
08-Feb-11, with colleagues in order to conduct the council's internal
review.

With regards to point 1 - we can only assume that the other respondents
have not got the clause outlined below in their compromise agreements.

With regards to point 2 - the council apologises if the original
response was not clear by what it meant when stating that "the whole of
the terms .....(indeed each agreement's very existence)" fell within
the ambit of the confidentiality clause.

The compromise agreements contain a confidentiality clause which
prohibits the disclosure of the existence of the agreement itself as
well as any details within it. The wording of the clause is: "The
Employee and the Employer agree to keep from the date of this agreement
the existence and terms of this agreement and the circumstances
concerning the termination of the Employee's employment confidential."

You will appreciate that in order to give the requested total annual
figures it would necessarily involve confirmation that agreements exist
and thus would breach the above term.

However we are grateful for the helpful approach and the reduction in
scope you identified; we have been able to review our response and can
confirm that there have not been any agreements within the breadth of
that scope. As there are none within that scope it follows that there
are no relevant confidentiality clauses and we are thus able to share
the nil return.

In response to the issues raised by your enquiry we are also considering
whether the confidentiality clause used in the past needs to be as wide
as it has been or whether a carve out for FOI or similar purposes may be
suitable.

Please again accept my apologies for the delay in reviewing our initial
response and clarifying our position.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the council's internal
review, you have a further right of appeal to the Information
Commissioner. You can request a review of the council's decisions by
contacting: The Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely,

Gary Shipsey
Information Governance and Compliance Manager
Audit, Risk and Information
North Somerset Council

Tel: 01934 427 394
Fax: 01275 884 468
Post: Town Hall, Walliscote Grove Road, Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1UJ
Web: www.n-somerset.gov.uk

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

North Somerset Council went to internal review, and reconsidered, before deciding to release the information, for which I am grateful.

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