Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Stoke on Trent 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 Stoke on Trent City Council.

Dear Stoke on Trent 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 - 1; 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

Lucie Blakeman, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Paul Cardin,

Your request for information

Thank you for your request for information about compromise agreements.
Your request was received on 07/01/2011 and I am dealing with it under the
terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

In some circumstances we may charge for information. If there is a charge
I will let you know as you will have to pay it before we deal with your
request.

Some information does not have to be released under the Freedom of
Information Act. We will check the information you have asked for and send
you as much as possible. If another person or organisation is named in the
information we may have to ask their opinion before we decide what we can
give you.

You should expect to receive a response to your request on or before
04/02/2011, in line with the Acts 20 working day statutory deadline.

For your information we may publish the response to your request on our
City Council's website, which can be found at the following address:
[1]www.stoke.gov.uk.

If you have any queries about this email please do not hesitate to contact
me.

Yours faithfully

Lucie Blakeman | Business Adminitration Administrator

Business Services | Business Administration | Supporting FOI

City of Stoke-on-Trent 

Civic Centre, Floor 4 ,Glebe Street, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 1RJ

t 01782 232853

e [2][email address]

stoke.gov.uk                                          

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Hannah Holdcroft, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Your request for information on compromise agreements

We have now considered your request and unfortunately we do not hold the
information that you have asked for. Compromise agreements do not state
the reason for the agreement.

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

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your
request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision,
you should write to: Louise Kelly, Freedom of Information and Data
Protection Manager, Chief Executive's Directorate, Civic Centre Floor 4,
Glebe Street, ST4 1HH or email [1][Stoke on Trent City Council request email].

If, after contacting us, you are not content with the outcome, you may ask
the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the Information
Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have already used our
appeal procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The
Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely,

Hannah Holdcroft

Hannah Holdcroft | Freedom of Information and Data Protection Officer

Information Governance | Chief Executive's

City of Stoke-on-Trent

Civic Centre Glebe Street Stoke-on-Trent ST4 1RN

t 01782 232853

e [email address] <mailto:[email address]>

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Dear Hannah Holdcroft,

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

Lucie Blakeman, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Paul,

Your request for information

Thank you for your request for information about exemption certificates.
Your request was received on 04/02/2011 and I am dealing with it under the
terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

In some circumstances we may charge for information. If there is a charge
I will let you know as you will have to pay it before we deal with your
request.

Some information does not have to be released under the Freedom of
Information Act. We will check the information you have asked for and send
you as much as possible. If another person or organisation is named in the
information we may have to ask their opinion before we decide what we can
give you.

You should expect to receive a response to your request on or before
04/03/2011, in line with the Acts 20 working day statutory deadline.

For your information we may publish the response to your request on our
City Council's website, which can be found at the following address:
[1]www.stoke.gov.uk.

If you have any queries about this email please do not hesitate to contact
me.

Yours faithfully

Lucie Blakeman | Business Administration Administrator

Business Services | Business Administration | Supporting FOI

City of Stoke-on-Trent 

Civic Centre, Floor 4 ,Glebe Street, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 1RJ

t 01782 232853

e [2][email address]

stoke.gov.uk                                          

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Dear Lucie Blakeman,

Many thanks, but I didn't ask for information on 'exemption certificates'. I asked for information on 'compromise agreements'.

The scope of the original request was also reduced. You seem to have availed yourself of another 20 days' grace in addressing a much reduced query.

Is this in the spirit of the FOI Act? Or is it in the spirit of some other agenda?

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Lucie Blakeman, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Paul,

Your request for information

Thank you for your request for information about compromise agreements.
Your request was received on 04/02/2011 and I am dealing with it under the
terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

In some circumstances we may charge for information. If there is a charge
I will let you know as you will have to pay it before we deal with your
request.

Some information does not have to be released under the Freedom of
Information Act. We will check the information you have asked for and send
you as much as possible. If another person or organisation is named in the
information we may have to ask their opinion before we decide what we can
give you.

You should expect to receive a response to your request on or before
04/03/2011, in line with the Acts 20 working day statutory deadline.

For your information we may publish the response to your request on our
City Council's website, which can be found at the following address:
[1]www.stoke.gov.uk.

If you have any queries about this email please do not hesitate to contact
me.

Yours faithfully

Lucie Blakeman | Business Administration Administrator

Business Services | Business Administration | Supporting FOI

City of Stoke-on-Trent

Civic Centre, Floor 4 ,Glebe Street, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 1RJ

t 01782 232853

e [2][email address]

stoke.gov.uk

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Dear Lucie Blakeman,

I'm not at all sure that a human being has looked at this request yet, apart from a brief intervention from somebody called Hannah Holdcroft on 4th February.

We are now into March 2011. Please can you ask a human being to assume control and take the automated responses out of the loop?

We're not getting very far with this request and it's getting very frustrating,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Hannah Holdcroft, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your email.

I can confirm that the response that you received from myself was not automated.

Your response is due on 4th March in line with the Acts 20 working day statutory deadline.

Yours sincerely,
Hannah Holdcroft

Hannah Holdcroft | Freedom of Information and Data Protection Officer
Information Governance | Chief Executive's
City of Stoke-on-Trent
Civic Centre Glebe Street Stoke-on-Trent ST4 1RN
t 01782 232853
e [email address] <mailto:[email address]>

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Dear Hannah Holdcroft,

First request: 7th January, followed by a REDUCED request, sent in good faith.

We're now in March, after you availed yourselves of another 20 working days' grace.

Is it any wonder frustrated members of the public THROW THEIR HANDS UP IN DESPAIR? This is a rhetorical question, meaning you don't have to answer it.

I look forward to your response,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Hannah Holdcroft, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Your request for information on compromise agreements

Although we do hold the information that you have requested, we estimate
that the cost of complying with your request would be more than £450.
This amount is called the appropriate limit and is specified in
regulations. When it would cost more than £450 to locate, retrieve and
extract the information that is requested, section 12 of the Freedom of
Information Act allows us to refuse the request.

The reason that your request exceeds the statutory cost threshold is
because it would require a search through every matter number on the
departments database (IKEN) and then we would need to establish whether
the file related to a compromise agreement. Once this has been identified,
the file would need to be located and reviewed to determine the reason
that the agreement was drafted and establish whether it included/excluded
one of the following; purely redundancy situations, purely PILON (payment
in lieu of notice) situations, equal pay claims, TUPE situations and
purely voluntary severance situations.

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

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your
request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision,
you should write to: Louise Kelly, Freedom of Information and Data
Protection Manager, Chief Executive’s Directorate, Civic Centre Floor 4,
Glebe Street, ST4 1HH or email [1][Stoke on Trent City Council request email].

If, after contacting us, you are not content with the outcome, you may ask
the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the Information
Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have already used our
appeal procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely,

Hannah Holdcroft

Hannah Holdcroft | Freedom of Information and Data Protection Officer

Information Governance | Chief Executive's

City of Stoke-on-Trent

Civic Centre Glebe Street Stoke-on-Trent ST4 1RN

t 01782 232853

e [email address] <mailto:[email address]>

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Dear Stoke on Trent City Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Stoke on Trent City 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.

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 have insisted on a refusal.

Please take into account all the information I have submitted to date. To give you a picture of the wider context here, this request has been made to ALL English Councils above a certain size. To date, since 1st January 2011, 249 (two hundred and forty nine) councils have responded positively and in full. We have had eleven years of FOI and I would have hoped that your council would have been working towards an effective data storage / retrieval system that works with the public interest in mind. You have not advised me of any plans to do so and appear to be happy to continue maintaining an unresponsive system.

Some councils have responded to say that their systems will be upgraded in order to satisfy public requests.

It is not right that the public suffers and obstacles are effectively placed in the way of their information because you are persevering with the upkeep of a cumbersome data storage system. Particularly in light of the positive response from hundreds of your LGA colleagues.

I don't think that your possession and maintenance of an unresponsive 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

Louise Kelly, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Paul,

SOT\005534\1011 Freedom of Information Internal Review regarding your
request for information about Compromise Agreements
Thank you for your correspondence requesting an Internal Review, which was
received on the 4th March 2011, regarding your request for information
about compromise agreements.
I am now considering this Review and you should hear from me within 20
working days, starting the day after your correspondence was received.
The deadline I am working to is the 1st April 2011.

If you have any queries about this email please do not hesitate to contact
me.
Yours sincerely

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly | Freedom of Information & Data Protection Manager
Information Governance | Chief Executives
City of Stoke-on-Trent
Civic Centre Glebe Street Stoke-on-Trent ST4 1HH
t 01782 235965
e [1][email address]

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References

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1. mailto:[email address]

Louise Kelly, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Paul,

I have now conducted an Internal Review regarding your request for
information about compromise agreements.

I can confirm that I am not upholding your Appeal. Please find my
explanation for this below.

In our original response we explained that in order to deal with your
request it would cost more than £450 to locate, retrieve and extract
the information that is requested, and therefore we applied Section 12 of
the Freedom of Information Act, allowing us to refuse the request.

Following the receipt of your Appeal I have contacted the Legal Services
Department to confirm that we were correct to apply this cost limit to
your request. They provided me with further information helping me to
come to the decision that our original response to you was correct.

Legal Services has only been the employment law advisor for the City
Council for the last three years approximately, before that the Council's
Human Resources Department contracted out to the private sector.
Therefore locating the information for before this period would require
searching further systems in order to locate the specific records that you
require, hence increasing the amount of staff time that would need to be
spent dealing with your request.

The Legal Service's case management system has been in place for the
previous 18 months and therefore information held before this would again
add to the amount of time it would take to deal with your request. For
your information, the Legal Services Department have said that they will
consider records improvements in this area as a result of this request.

I apologise that we cannot assist you with the information that you
require at this time. If you are still not content with the outcome, you
may ask the Information Commissioner for a decision.

The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information
Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9
5AF.

Yours sincerely

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly | Freedom of Information & Data Protection Manager
Information Rights | Support | Business Services
City of Stoke-on-Trent
Civic Centre, Glebe Street Stoke-on-Trent ST4 1RG
t 01782 235965
e [1][email address]

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References

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1. mailto:[email address]

Dear Louise Kelly,

While I consider whether to appeal to the Information Commissioner, please address the second part of my original request i.e.

"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."

Thank you in advance (this is not additional to the original request - it has not yet been addressed)

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Louise Kelly, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your email below. As I have conducted an Internal Review into the response to your original request, this request is now closed. Your next route now would be to contact the Information Commissioner if you are still unhappy with the result of this Review.

If you wish to make a new request for other information, please do so by writing to [Stoke on Trent City Council request email]

Yours sincerely

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly | Freedom of Information & Data Protection Manager
Information Rights | Support | Business Services 
City of Stoke-on-Trent 
Civic Centre,  Glebe Street   Stoke-on-Trent   ST4 1RG
t 01782 235965
e [email address]

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Stoke on Trent 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.