Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Somerset 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 Somerset County Council.

Dear Somerset County 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

Somerset Direct - Generic, Somerset County Council

Thank you for contacting Somerset County Council. Your email has been
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deal with your enquiry. If your email requires a response we will get
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If you enquiry relates to an urgent issue you may like to contact us on
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Somerset Direct - Generic, Somerset County Council

Dear Paul

I have logged your query with the Freedom of Information Team who will
respond within 20 days of receipt. Your reference is 1440464.

With kind regards

Jenny Pattenden
Customer Advisor - Somerset Direct

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Tel Number: 0845 345 9166
[email address]

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Taunton Deane Borough Council & Avon and Somerset Police.

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6373780 Registered office:PO Box 41, North Harbour, Portsmouth, Hants
PO6 3AU

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Jon Bazley, Somerset County Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. We
are currently dealing with your request and will be in touch shortly
concerning disclosure of the information you have requested.

The legislation obliges us to provide you with this information within 20
days, so our response will be sent to you by February 7th 2011.

Yours sincerely

Information Governance Team
Somerset County Council

This communication is intended solely for the person (s) or organisation
to whom it is addressed. It may
contain privileged and confidential information and if you are not the
intended recipient (s), you must not
copy, distribute or take any action in reliance on it. If you have
received this e-mail in error please notify
the sender and copy the message to [email address]

Individuals are advised that by replying to, or sending an e-mail message
to Somerset County Council, you
accept that you have no explicit or implicit expectation of privacy.

In line with the Surveillance and Monitoring Policy, any e-mail messages
(and attachments) transmitted over
the Council***s network may be subject to scrutiny.

Jon Bazley, Somerset County Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I am writing in respect of your recent request for information from
Somerset County Council, which been has dealt with under the provisions of
the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000.

In response to your questions regarding Council staff who have been
expected to sign compromise agreements, I can confirm that we hold this
information.

Secondly, I can provide you with the following information:

Compromise agreements are only used by the Council in cases where the
employee is terminating their employment. Compromise Agreements would not
be used in any matters relating to current employees.

The Council does not apply any clauses in Compromise Agreements that
require employees to forego their right under the Freedom of Information
Act or the Data Protection Act.

Unfortunately, the exact detail of the information you have requested is
not readily available. This is because the information is held by
individual managers of which there are in the region of 85. Because it is
confidential and highly sensitive information it cannot be accessed by
anyone other than senior managers.

The time that it will take each manager to check these details would be in
excess of 40 hours. The Council's fee for responding to a request for
information after the first 18 hours, under the FOIA is £25 per hour,
which means that a minimal cost of £1,000, would therefore apply to
this request. This charge has been calculated in accordance with section
13 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Freedom of Information
Fees Regulations.

If you narrow the scope of your request, we may be able to provide the
information free of charge, because it would cost less than hours work.
For example, you may wish to refine your request by being more specific
about the information you particularly want, including any dates or period
of time relevant to the information required.

If you wish us to continue to process your request you should pay the fee
by May 5th 2011. If we do not receive payment of the fee by this date, I
will assume that you do not wish to continue with this request and I will
consider the request closed.

If you are not satisfied with the way in which your request has been dealt
with, or the information you have received, you can ask for an internal
review of our decision.

Please send your request to:

Peter Grogan
Corporate Information Governance Manager
Information Governance Team
Resources Directorate
County Hall
Taunton
TA1 4DY or email [1][email address]

An internal review will then be carried out and we will write to you with
the results of our investigation. If you are not content with the outcome
of our review, you may then apply directly to the Information
Commissioner's Office ([2]www.ico.gov.uk ) for an appeal: The Information
Commissioner can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF Tel: 0303 - 123 1113

Yours sincerely

Information Governance Team
Information, Research and Customer Planning Group
Resources Directorate
A1E County Hall
Taunton
Somerset
TA1 4DY
Direct dial: 01823 - 357194
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This communication is intended solely for the person (s) or organisation
to whom it is addressed. It may
contain privileged and confidential information and if you are not the
intended recipient (s), you must not
copy, distribute or take any action in reliance on it. If you have
received this e-mail in error please notify
the sender and copy the message to [email address]

Individuals are advised that by replying to, or sending an e-mail message
to Somerset County Council, you
accept that you have no explicit or implicit expectation of privacy.

In line with the Surveillance and Monitoring Policy, any e-mail messages
(and attachments) transmitted over
the Councilâ**s network may be subject to scrutiny.

References

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

Dear Jon Bazley,

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. To date, since January 1st 2011, I have had 181
(one hundred and eighty one) full and detailed positive responses.
These councils did not have any difficulty in responding to my request.

I am currently involved in research in this area, with the aim of viewing trends and movements nationally. In order to make the task somewhat more manageable, can I make the following reductions in scope?

Please can you exclude COT3 agreements, also 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. Purely voluntary severance situations

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 181 councils have not found any difficulty, I imagine that they may be taking a different approach to locating 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 receiving your response,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear Somerset County Council,

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

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

Your response is now long overdue.

I appreciate the fact that you have answered the second part of the original query. However, this request has now been responded to positively and in full by 251 English Councils since 1st January 2011. I'd appreciate it very much if while conducting this internal review, you took into account all the
questions and information I have supplied to date.

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

Somerset Direct - Generic, Somerset County Council

Thank you for contacting Somerset County Council. Your email has been
received by our General Enquiries Team and a member of our team will
deal with your enquiry. If your email requires a response we will get
back to you.

If you enquiry relates to an urgent issue you may like to contact us on
0845 345 9166 to discuss it further, or Text us your Enquiry on
07781482858 or use our Minicom Service on 0800 783 4518. Our opening
hours are 8am - 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am - 4pm on Saturdays

This communication is intended solely for the person (s) or organisation to whom it is addressed. It may contain privileged
and confidential information and if you are not the intended recipient (s), you must not copy, distribute or take any action
in reliance on it. If you have received this e-mail in error please notify the sender and copy the message to
[email address]

Individuals are advised that by replying to, or sending an e-mail message to Somerset County Council, you accept
that you have no explicit or implicit expectation of privacy.

In line with the Surveillance and Monitoring Policy, any e-mail messages (and attachments) transmitted over the
Council’s network may be subject to scrutiny.

Peter Grogan, Somerset County Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I have received your request for an internal review of FOI Request 1440464
regarding compromise agreements, sent 5^th March

I will be dealing with the response and expect to be able to answer this
within the next 20 working days

Regards

Peter Grogan

Information Governance Manager

Somerset County Council

County Hall, Taunton, TA1 4DY

01823 357175

07500 882481

[1][email address]

This communication is intended solely for the person (s) or organisation
to whom it is addressed. It may
contain privileged and confidential information and if you are not the
intended recipient (s), you must not
copy, distribute or take any action in reliance on it. If you have
received this e-mail in error please notify
the sender and copy the message to [email address]

Individuals are advised that by replying to, or sending an e-mail message
to Somerset County Council, you
accept that you have no explicit or implicit expectation of privacy.

In line with the Surveillance and Monitoring Policy, any e-mail messages
(and attachments) transmitted over
the Council***s network may be subject to scrutiny.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Peter Grogan, Somerset County Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin

Please find attached the internal review you requested ref FOI 1440464

Regards

<<Cardin Internal review.doc>>

Peter Grogan

Information Governance Manager

Somerset County Council

County Hall, Taunton, TA1 4DY

01823 357175

07500 882481

[1][email address]

This communication is intended solely for the person (s) or organisation
to whom it is addressed. It may
contain privileged and confidential information and if you are not the
intended recipient (s), you must not
copy, distribute or take any action in reliance on it. If you have
received this e-mail in error please notify
the sender and copy the message to [email address]

Individuals are advised that by replying to, or sending an e-mail message
to Somerset County Council, you
accept that you have no explicit or implicit expectation of privacy.

In line with the Surveillance and Monitoring Policy, any e-mail messages
(and attachments) transmitted over
the Council***s network may be subject to scrutiny.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Somerset 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.

Dave Orr left an annotation ()

Once the SCC appeal fails then simply email the ICO for a case and appeal to them.

We haven't lost one appeal yet against SCC once the ICO have investigated and ruled.

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