Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to North Yorkshire 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 refused by North Yorkshire County Council.

Dear North Yorkshire County 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

DataManagement Officer, North Yorkshire County Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom Of Information Act 2000, of which we acknowledge receipt.

Your request has been passed to the appropriate officer to provide a response as soon as possible, and in any event within 20 working days, as required by the Act.

Kind regards

Paul Atkinson, for

Data Management Officer
North Yorkshire County Council
01609 533219 [email address]

Access your county council services online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at www.northyorks.gov.uk.

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North Yorkshire County Council.

Mandy Bond, North Yorkshire County Council

2 Attachments

Dear Paul

We are unable to provide the information you have requested. This information is held on individual employees HR files and to provide this information would involve reviewing in excess of approximately 24,000 files. The large amount of work involved would bring the cost of answering the request over the amount to which we are legally required to respond, i.e. the cost of locating and retrieving the information exceeds the 'appropriate limit' as stated in the Freedom of Information (Fees and Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004. I attach a copy of our appeals procedure and our charging regime for your information.

Regards

Access your county council services online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at www.northyorks.gov.uk.

WARNING

Any opinions or statements expressed in this e-mail are those of the individual and not necessarily those of North Yorkshire County Council.

This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are confidential and solely for the use of the intended recipient. If you receive this in error, please do not disclose any information to anyone, notify the sender at the above address and then destroy all copies.

North Yorkshire County Council’s computer systems and communications may be monitored to ensure effective operation of the system and for other lawful purposes. All GCSX traffic may be subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation.

Although we have endeavoured to ensure that this e-mail and any attachments are free from any virus we would advise you to take any necessary steps to ensure that they are actually virus free.

If you receive an automatic response stating that the recipient is away from the office and you wish to request information under either the Freedom of Information Act, the Data Protection Act or the Environmental Information Regulations please forward your request by e-mail to the Data Management Team ([North Yorkshire County Council request email]) who will process your request.

North Yorkshire County Council.

Dear Mandy Bond,

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. So far, I have had 138 (one hundred and thirty
eight) full and detailed positive responses. These councils did not
have any difficulty in responding to a perfectly reasonable
request.

I am currently involved in research in this area and in order to
make the task somewhat more manageable, can I make the following
changes?

Please can you exclude 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. COT3 agreements (where tribunal proceedings may or may not have
been initiated)

Also, to assist you further, I will narrow the time period down to
between the years 2005 to 2010 i.e. the last six years.

Given that a total of 138 councils have not found any difficulty, I
imagine that they may be taking a different approach to searching
for the information.

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 and look forward
to your response,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

DataManagement Officer, North Yorkshire County Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your email, which has been passed on to our office. Please accept my apologies that we were unable to provide a full response to your first request.

We have logged this email as a new request, partly because you have asked different questions, and partly so that we can track and reply to it more easily. We will, however, send a reply to you as soon as we are able to, and have already contacted Human Resources, Legal Services and Accountancy with this in mind.

I hope that this is satisfactory, but if you have any further queries, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Yours sincerely

Miriam Townsend, for

Data Management Officer
North Yorkshire County Council
01609 533219 [email address]

Access your county council services online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at www.northyorks.gov.uk.

WARNING

Any opinions or statements expressed in this e-mail are those of the individual and not necessarily those of North Yorkshire County Council.

This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are confidential and solely for the use of the intended recipient. If you receive this in error, please do not disclose any information to anyone, notify the sender at the above address and then destroy all copies.

North Yorkshire County Council’s computer systems and communications may be monitored to ensure effective operation of the system and for other lawful purposes. All GCSX traffic may be subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation.

Although we have endeavoured to ensure that this e-mail and any attachments are free from any virus we would advise you to take any necessary steps to ensure that they are actually virus free.

If you receive an automatic response stating that the recipient is away from the office and you wish to request information under either the Freedom of Information Act, the Data Protection Act or the Environmental Information Regulations please forward your request by e-mail to the Data Management Team ([North Yorkshire County Council request email]) who will process your request.

North Yorkshire County Council.

DataManagement Officer, North Yorkshire County Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin

I write further to your request for information submitted to the
Council on 31 January, following your original request on 5 January.

Unfortunately the Council is not able to provide the information you
have requested as there is no central record held by the Council of
compromise agreements. As was explained in the Council’s first
response to you of 31 January the Council’s HR department do not hold
centralised records on compromise agreements and the only way to obtain
the information you are seeking would be to go through every personnel
file. In an organisation as large as North Yorkshire County Council you
will appreciate that this is not feasible within the 18 hour
‘appropriate limit’ as stated in the Freedom of Information and
Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004.

Further since you submitted your revised request we have again
contacted the Council’s finance department and legal services as you
suggested. Legal services have confirmed that they are not involved in
every compromise agreement which is entered into by the Council, nor do
they retain a record of compromise agreements and so are unable to
provide the information you have requested.

Unfortunately nor it is possible for the Council to obtain the
information you have requested from its finance systems. There is no
standard way of record payments which may have been made to individuals
as a result of compromise agreements. Consequently there are a number of
different ways in which such payments could be recorded. In order to
obtain the information you are requesting from the Council’s finance
systems the Council would have compile a list of all employees who
received a payment of the type which could include payment in relation
compromise agreements. The HR record of each of these employees would
then have to be located and retrieved, and records would have to be
reviewed to identify whether the payment was in fact in connection with
a compromise agreement. By way of example in just one possible category
there were 160 such payments for 2009/2010.

I apologise that the Council cannot be of further assistance with your
enquiry however the Council just does not have a centralised record of
the information you are seeking. Further there is no way in which the
Council can research the information you have requested under the
Freedom of Information appropriate limit. The large amount of work
involved searching individual records would bring the cost of answering
the request over the amount to which we are legally required to respond,
i.e. the cost of locating and retrieving the information exceeds the
'appropriate limit' as stated in the Freedom of Information (Fees and
Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004.

I have attached a copy of the Council’s appeals procedure for your
information

Yours sincerely

Louise Jackson, for

Data Management Officer
North Yorkshire County Council
01609 533219 [email address]

Access your county council services online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at www.northyorks.gov.uk.

WARNING

Any opinions or statements expressed in this e-mail are those of the individual and not necessarily those of North Yorkshire County Council.

This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are confidential and solely for the use of the intended recipient. If you receive this in error, please do not disclose any information to anyone, notify the sender at the above address and then destroy all copies.

North Yorkshire County Council’s computer systems and communications may be monitored to ensure effective operation of the system and for other lawful purposes. All GCSX traffic may be subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation.

Although we have endeavoured to ensure that this e-mail and any attachments are free from any virus we would advise you to take any necessary steps to ensure that they are actually virus free.

If you receive an automatic response stating that the recipient is away from the office and you wish to request information under either the Freedom of Information Act, the Data Protection Act or the Environmental Information Regulations please forward your request by e-mail to the Data Management Team ([North Yorkshire County Council request email]) who will process your request.

North Yorkshire County Council.

Dear North Yorkshire County Council,

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

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

Thanks for your response and for the time you have devoted to my query.

Your decision not to release the information is unsatisfactory for two 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 appear not to have acknowledged that I DID reduce the scope of the request when I sent the second email, stating that you had not responded in accordance with the law.
2. The fact that your systems have the information stored in a manner which is not readily identifiable is not a satisfactory answer - particularly given the wider context of this query - which has been made of ALL English councils, and which to date has been answered positively and in full, since 1st January 2011, by 213 local authorities.

I don't think that your possession and maintenance of a cumbersome or inadequate method of storing and retrieving information is an adequate 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

DataManagement Officer, North Yorkshire County Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your request for internal review. Your request for review has been forwarded to an independent officer who will review the way the Council has handled your requests and will respond to you as soon as possible and within 20 working days as required by the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Yours sincerely

Louise

show quoted sections

DataManagement Officer, North Yorkshire County Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin

I am writing further to your request for an internal review in relation to your recent requests N2402 and N2600.

Unfortunately the Council simply does not hold the information you are requesting in such a way that it can be retrieved within the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The information you have requested is not part of the Council's standard reporting procedures and there is no automated mechanism for retrieving this information. As has been explained to you already the only way that this information could be retrieved would be by manually searching HR files. In accordance with section 12 of the Act the Council can refuse a request for information if it is estimated that the time taken to comply with the request would exceed the appropriate limit, as set out in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004, namely 18 hours. I understand that your frustration at this however it is not the case that the Council's recording system is inadequate, rather that the Council's recording systems do not allow for the information you are specifically interested in to be retrieved in under 18 hours.

You suggest that the Council did not consider whether your rescoped request could be achieve in under the 18 hours. Whilst the Council appreciates your attempt to assist the Council by rescoping your request, in order to identify the compromise agreements you requested be excluded from the response the Council would still have to identify all of the compromise agreements which had been reached, and so would have to do the same amount of work as for your original request. The Council does recognise its duty under section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to provide advice and assistance to applicants, however there is no obvious way that your request could be rescoped to bring the amount of work required to under the 18 hour appropriate limit.

Finally you mention the public interest in this matter. Whilst we acknowledge there is a strong public interest in public spending, where section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 is engaged the Council is not required to consider the public interest test.

I apologise that we cannot be of any further assistance at this time. I have attached a copy of the Council's appeals procedure which details your right of appeal to the Information Commissioner if you remain dissatisfied and wish to seek an independent review.

Yours sincerely

Robert Beane

Data Management Officer
North Yorkshire County Council
01609 533219 [email address]

Access your county council services online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at www.northyorks.gov.uk.

WARNING

Any opinions or statements expressed in this e-mail are those of the individual and not necessarily those of North Yorkshire County Council.

This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are confidential and solely for the use of the intended recipient. If you receive this in error, please do not disclose any information to anyone, notify the sender at the above address and then destroy all copies.

North Yorkshire County Council’s computer systems and communications may be monitored to ensure effective operation of the system and for other lawful purposes. All GCSX traffic may be subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation.

Although we have endeavoured to ensure that this e-mail and any attachments are free from any virus we would advise you to take any necessary steps to ensure that they are actually virus free.

If you receive an automatic response stating that the recipient is away from the office and you wish to request information under either the Freedom of Information Act, the Data Protection Act or the Environmental Information Regulations please forward your request by e-mail to the Data Management Team ([North Yorkshire County Council request email]) who will process your request.

North Yorkshire County Council.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

North Yorkshire County 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.