Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Norwich City 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 partially successful.

Dear Norwich City 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

FOI-Queries, Norwich City Council

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Thank you for contacting us. We aim to respond to all enquiries as quickly
as possible, and within five working days from the date of your email.

Please visit our website at [2]www.norwich.gov.uk to access information
and services including online applications for our most commonly used
forms. You can also send us your comments, compliments or complaints
online.

Freedom of Information Act requests
In accordance with the act we will respond to enquiries within 20 working
days.

You can also contact us in the following ways:

* 0344 980 3333 (general enquiries), 8am to 6pm
* 24 hour Antisocial behaviour (ASB) hotline - 01603 212100
* 24 hour telephone payments - 01603 212282
* For 24 hour online payments, click [3]here
* To visit us at one of our neighbourhood offices, click [4]here

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Wilson-Copp, Jenny, Norwich City Council

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Dear Mr Cardin

I am writing in response to your email on 5 January 2011 requesting
information regarding total annual figures for compromise agreements.

The council is refusing your request under section 41 (2) - information
provided in confidence of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I attach a refusal notice to that effect.

<<FOI Refusal Notice - Paul Cardin.doc>>

Yours sincerely

Jenny

Jenny Wilson-Copp
Democratic services
Norwich City Council
(01603) 212416
[email address]

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Dear Jenny Wilson-Copp,

Many thanks for your response.

I'm afraid your answer is a little short on explanation and simply quotes your conclusion back to me.

I have no idea what thought processes you have gone through in order to arrive at this conclusion. One would have hoped for some more explanation regarding the risks when balanced against the need to act in the interests of the public.

May I draw your attention to the fact that I am not asking for any detail, merely total annual figures (hopefully in calendar format e.g. 2005 - 3; 2006 - 1; etc.)

I do not see how providing this can pose a risk to identifying or otherwise jeopardising the position of a third party.

Before going to an internal review I'd like to give you the opportunity to reconsider. Please don't seek to impose another 20 day response period as this is not a new request,

many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Wilson-Copp, Jenny, Norwich City Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I am writing in response to your email received today, 3 February 2011,
requesting clarification on the reasons for refusal of your request for
information.

I acknowledge that you are not requesting details but total annual
figures. However, if the council were to provide any information
relating to the existence of any compromise agreement, it would infact
be a breach of confidence and the agreement itself. Because of the of
the confidential nature of these agreements and the fact that we would
be liable to legal action should that confidence be broken, this
prohibits us from releasing the information. I am therefore unable to
provide you with this information.

I hope that this helps to clarify and apologise for any inconvenience
caused through not fully explaining the reasons in my initial response.

You have a right to request that this decision be reviewed by an
independent officer of the authority which right of appeal might be
exercised by a request in writing to Chris Lambert, Democratic Services
Officer, City Hall, Norwich, NR2 1NH within twenty eight days of the
date of this decision.

Yours sincerely

Jenny

Jenny Wilson-Copp
Democratic services
Norwich City Council
(01603) 212416
[email address]

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Dear Norwich City Council,

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

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

Your council's position is out of step with 168 (and rising) English Councils.

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

FOI-Queries, Norwich City Council

1 Attachment

[1]Picture (Metafile)

Thank you for contacting us. We aim to respond to all enquiries as quickly
as possible, and within five working days from the date of your email.

Please visit our website at [2]www.norwich.gov.uk to access information
and services including online applications for our most commonly used
forms. You can also send us your comments, compliments or complaints
online.

Freedom of Information Act requests
In accordance with the act we will respond to enquiries within 20 working
days.

You can also contact us in the following ways:

* 0344 980 3333 (general enquiries), 8am to 6pm
* 24 hour Antisocial behaviour (ASB) hotline - 01603 212100
* 24 hour telephone payments - 01603 212282
* For 24 hour online payments, click [3]here
* To visit us at one of our neighbourhood offices, click [4]here

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
2. http://www.norwich.gov.uk/
3. http://www.norwich.gov.uk/site_files/pag...
4. http://www.norwich.gov.uk/webapps/atoz/s...

Lambert, Chris, Norwich City Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your email of 3 February 2011 requesting an internal review
of your freedom of information request regarding compromise agreements, to
which you received a formal refusal notice on 2 February 2011.

You requested:

1) Annual totals 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).

Following a review of the information requested, I can confirm that there
were 11 compromise agreements signed between 2006 to 2010. I am unable to
provide you the total figures for each year separately because the
information relates to individuals, the identities of whom can (or may be)
identified by the information requested and therefore constitutes personal
data for the purposes of DPA. The information is therefore exempt under
section 40 (2) personal information of the freedom of information act.

2) 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.

Nil.

Please note that you have a right to appeal to the Information
Commissioners Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire, SK9
5AF.

In providing you with this information I would like to draw your attention
to the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005, which came
into force on the 1 July 2005. If you intend to re-use the information
provided, you must contact this department, as the Council may wish to
place conditions on how this information is used.

Yours sincerely

Chris Lambert
Democratic services
Norwich City Council
(01603) 212490
[email address]

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Dear Lambert, Chris,

Many thanks for your response and for effectively reviewing my request.

I am however disappointed that you have introduced a further qualification related to the risk of identifying individuals. I do not believe that such a claim holds water.

I say this because because from the 229 councils who have responded positively and in full to an identical query since 1st January 2011, over 100 (some of whom have only a few hundred employees) have declared 1's and 2's for specific years, with no misgivings stated regarding any risk to exposing individuals' identities.

I would assume that these LGA colleagues of yours are in agreement with me that the release of full information is in the spirit of the FOI Act and outweighs the risk of identifying any of the individuals concerned.

I do however thank you for addressing the second part of my original query and look forward to a reconsidered response,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Norwich City 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.

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