Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Folkestone & Hythe District 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 Shepway District Council,

Please supply Annual totals for the followig:

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

Hayley Payne,

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your request; I will endeavour to supply the
information you have requested within the requisite 20 working
days. If I think that it will take longer, I will contact you.

Kind regards

Hayley Payne Democratic Services Officer - Complaints & Information

Folkestone & Hythe District Council

Dear Mr Cardin

The number of mutual agreements (this excludes agreements on the grounds
of redundancy) since 2006 is 7.

2006 - 1

2007 - 1

2008 - 2

2009 - 3

2010 - 0

We are withholding the second part of the request since we consider the
following exemptions apply.

1. The section 40 exemption relating to Personal Information applies as
the agreement is 'private' to the individual concerned. I appreciate that
you don't require names and addresses of individuals however the content
of the compromise agreement as a whole is personal and disclosure of this
data relating to a third party would breach the fair processing principle
if there was a legitimate expectation by those involved that this
information would remain private and confidential.

2. The section 41 exemption protects information obtained by a public
authority from another person and whose disclosure to the public,
otherwise than under the Freedom of Information Act, would constitute an
actionable breach of confidence. The entire purpose of a compromise
agreement is that neither party even speaks about or divulges the content
of the agreement to anyone. The effect of doing so would be an actionable
breach of confidence.

Any re-use of this information will be subject to the Re-use of Public
Sector Information Act. Should you require any further information, or if
you are not satisfied with our response, please do not hesitate to contact
me on 01303 853444. You may also request an internal review by writing to
the following address:

Freedom Of Information Appeals Officer
Legal and Democratic Services
Shepway District Council
Castle Hill Avenue
Kent CT20 2QY

Alternatively you can use our Customer Comment Form which can be accessed
at our website <[1]>.

In addition, if you are not satisfied with our response you may apply to
the Information Commissioner for an independent review at the following

The information Commissioner
Wyncliffe House
Water Lane
Cheshire SK9 5AF

Telephone 01625 545700

Kind regards

Hayley Payne

Democratic Services Officer - Complaints and Information

Shepway District Council

[3][email address]

Tel: 01303 853469

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Shepway District Council were one of the slower respondents of the 345 councils asked, taking 21 working days (just over the statutory period) to respond positively and in full.

Please link here to read about the further aspects of this request:

...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.