Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Peterborough 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 refused by Peterborough City Council.

Dear Peterborough 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

Baker Diane, Peterborough City Council

I will be out of the office from 31st December 2010 to 17th January 2011.
In my absence, please contact Karen Dunleavy by email or telephone on
452233. Many thanks Diane

Zerafa Ed, Peterborough City Council

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST - FOI-11-0015

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your request under the Freedom of Information Act:

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.

Your request is being considered and you will receive the information, if
held, within the statutory timescale of 20 working days, subject to the
information not being exempt.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours faithfully

Ed Zerafa
Information Specialist
Peterborough City Council
Town Hall
Peterborough
PE1 1HG

ed.zerafa[1]@peterborough.gov.uk
Telephone 01733 452295

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Dear Zerafa Ed,

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.

Many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear Peterborough City Council,

Your response is well overdue and I would appreciate a full and detailed reply.

For your information, to date, since 1st January 2011, 223 (two hundred and twenty three) English councils have responded positively and in full,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Baker Diane, Peterborough City Council

I will be away from the office on Friday 18th February and Monday 21st February. I will pick up emails where possible but in my absence, please contact Karen Dunleavy by email or telephone on 452233 if the matter is urgent.
Many thanks
Diane

Zerafa Ed, Peterborough City Council

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST - FOI-11-0015

Dear Sir,

I apologise for the delay in responding to your request. Your request for
information has now been considered and the information requested is given
below.

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).

The following table provides a summary of the numbers of compromise
agreements Peterborough City Council has records of since 2006.

+-------------------------------------------------------------+
| Area | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 |
|---------------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------|
| Council | 18 | 30 | 4 | 4 | 2 |
|---------------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------|
| Schools \ Colleges | 4 | 7 | 4 | 5 | 5 |
|---------------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------|
| Total | 22 | 37 | 8 | 9 | 7 |
+-------------------------------------------------------------+

It must be noted that for schools the Council only has a limited amount of
information based on records it holds; many schools in the city do not use
the Council for their Human Resources support.

It is not straightforward to determine a figure based on the wording of
your request due to records not necessarily identifying reasons for the
nature of the particular disputes in question. There is no specific
statistical marker in Council records identifying the specific causes
mentioned in the enquiry and the above figures represent a record of all
cases where compromise agreements were used when employees left by mutual
agreement or in similar circumstances. To provide more accurate
information based on the wording of the request would need a detailed
review of each of the files in question. The Council has carried out a
preliminary assessment of the information and it is estimated that the
cost of complying with this aspect of your request would exceed the
appropriate limit of £450. The appropriate limit has been specified in
regulations and for local Government it is set at £450. This represents
the estimated cost of one person working more than 18 hours in determining
whether the authority holds the information, and locating, retrieving and
extracting the information. Under section 12 of the Freedom of Information
Act the authority is not obliged to comply with your request and we will
not be processing this aspect of your request further.

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.

There are no clauses in Council compromise agreements restricting
someone's right to make a Freedom of Information request or a subject
access request under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Please provide the figures in the following format e.g. 2006 - 2; 2007 -
4; 2008 - 0; 2010 - 6; etc.

The information supplied to you in response to your request is the
copyright of Peterborough City Council and is protected by the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988. You may use it for the purposes permitted by
that Act, including non-commercial research and news reporting. Any other
re-use, for example commercial publication, requires the permission of the
copyright holder. If you wish to re-use any information supplied you must
first gain the Council's explicit written consent. In order to make a
request to re-use the information please contact me at the address above.

If you have any queries or concerns then please do not hesitate to contact
me.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request please contact
the Information Specialist, Peterborough City Council, Town Hall, Bridge
Street, Peterborough, PE1 1HG; Telephone: 01733 452295, e-mail:
[1][Peterborough City Council request email]

You can also complain to the Information Commissioner at:
The Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House, Water lane
Wilmslow, Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Tel: 01625 545700
[2]www.ico.gov.uk

Yours faithfully

Ed Zerafa
Information Specialist
Peterborough City Council
Town Hall
Peterborough
PE1 1HG

ed.zerafa[3]@peterborough.gov.uk
Telephone 01733 452295

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email. For full information relating to the transmission and use of this
email please visit www.peterborough.gov.uk/emaildisclaimer
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1. mailto:[Peterborough City Council request email]
2. http://www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk/
3. mailto:[email address]

Dear Peterborough City Council,

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

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

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Newham Borough 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 227 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

Zerafa Ed, Peterborough City Council

Dear Sir,

I am slightly confused as you also refer to Newham Borough Council and not just Peterborough City Council. Please will you clarify that you are seeking an internal review by Peterborough City Council in light of the response provided earlier today (21st February) in respect of this request by Peterborough City Council; and on the basis that you are not happy with the information provided or because the response was overdue?

In respect of your e-mail of 02 February 2011, I apologise as I appear to have missed this e-mail from yourself. If you are happy with the answer provided earlier today and no longer seek an internal review please let me know. I await your response.

Yours faithfully,

Ed Zerafa

Information Specialist
Compliance & Ethical Standards
Peterborough City Council
Town Hall
Peterborough
PE1 1HG

email: [email address]
Tel: 01733 452295

show quoted sections

Dear Zerafa Ed,

Apologies, i meant Peterborough City Council. As for the second email I sent, I was referring to the one I sent on 4th February, which advised you you were overdue and reduced the scope of the request.

Please continue with the internal review,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Zerafa Ed, Peterborough City Council

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST - FOI-11-0015 - INTERNAL REVIEW

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your email dated 21 February 2011.

A senior manager or legal advisor who was not involved in the original
request will now carry out an internal review. We aim to handle simple
internal reviews in 20 working days. We aim to handle internal reviews
that involve complex issues that require further investigation and those
that require consideration of the public interest test, in 40 working
days.

The Council does not offer an internal review in certain circumstances.
Where a decision to withhold information is made under Section 36 of the
Act (prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs), that decision
will have been taken by the Solicitor to the Council. In these
circumstances and in certain cases where there is no-one of sufficient
seniority to review the decision, it is not possible to offer an internal
review.

If you are dissatisfied with the internal review of our decision, or an
internal review was not available, you can seek an appeal from the
Information Commissioner by writing to:

The Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House, Water lane
Wilmslow, Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Tel: 01625 545700
[1]www.ico.gov.uk

Yours faithfully

Ed Zerafa
Information Specialist
Peterborough City Council
Town Hall
Peterborough
PE1 1HG

ed.zerafa[2]@peterborough.gov.uk
Telephone 01733 452295

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Conditions
apply to the confidentiality, copyright, legal liability and use of this
email. For full information relating to the transmission and use of this
email please visit www.peterborough.gov.uk/emaildisclaimer
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

References

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1. http://www.ico.gov.uk/
2. mailto:[email address]

Miles Colin, Peterborough City Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I have been asked to conduct a review into a refusal decision by the
authority relating to an FOI request you made by email which you
subsequently clarified on 04 February 2011. You sought a review of this
decision on 21 February 2011.

Your original request sought information about compromise agreements that
the authority has entered into with ex staff and existing staff.

The Authority's FOI officer, Ed Zerafa has supplied me with a number of
emails from:

o Yourself
o Himself (Ed Zerafa)
o Amy Brown, Employment Solicitor employed by PCC
o Mike George, HR Analyst employed by PCC

I have taken account of the contents of these emails and conducted an
interview with Ed Zerafa on 24 February this year.

I have referred to:

o The ICOs section 45 Code of Practice
o The FOI Act ` Awareness guidance No.5'
o FOI Public Interest Guidance
o The ICOs FOI General Guidance dated 19^th July 2010
o Section 12 exemption
o Section 40 & 44 absolute exemptions

I note that some of the information you seek has already been forwarded to
you by email on 21 February 2011 and some of the information is not held
by this Authority but may be held by the educational establishments
themselves, as indicated in Mr Zerafa's response of 21 February. Not all
establishments use the HR facilities of the Authority.

Due to this Authority's information capture and retention systems, some of
the information you request is not readily identifiable or easily
accessible, and some of the information is not recorded. To search for
this information and collate it in a readily accessible form - if it
exists at all, the Authority believes would be at a cost far in excess of
the statutory limit of £450.00.

I refer you to Ed Zerafa's correspondence of 21 February.

It may be regrettable that the Authority does not have systems that store
all the information you require, or at least stores the information in a
form that is not readily assessable.

I believe that the Authority has done all it can without incurring
additional costs that go beyond the statutory limit.

For these reasons, I believe that the Authority has met its obligations
and done all it can within the bounds of reasonableness.

If you are unsatisfied with this decision, you may wish to contact Diane
Baker, CEST, Peterborough City Council, Bridge Street, Peterborough, PE1
1HG, and seek a further review, or alternatively, you may wish to consider
making a complaint to the Information Commissioner at Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone number 01625 545700,
[1]www.ico.gov.uk

Yours faithfully

Colin Miles

Lawyer

Peterborough City Council

Bridge Street

Peterborough

PE1 1HG

DX 12310 PETERBOROUGH 1

[email address]

Tel: 01733 452316

Fax: 01733 452220

Peterborough City Council Legal Services is Lexcel accredited

Peterborough City Council does not accept service by email

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apply to the confidentiality, copyright, legal liability and use of this
email. For full information relating to the transmission and use of this
email please visit www.peterborough.gov.uk/emaildisclaimer
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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Peterborough City Council went to internal review, before deciding against supplying most of 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