Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Suffolk Coastal 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 Suffolk Coastal District 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

Freedom of Information Group,

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. Please see the
attached acknowledgement letter.

If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact
me.

Kind regards

Michelle Emmens
Freedom of Information Group

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Dear Freedom of Information Group,

By law, I believe the authority should have responded promptly and
by 1st February 2011.

Although I have received no response, to assist, and as an act of good faith, I would like to 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
5. Purely voluntary severance 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.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Freedom of Information Group,

Dear Mr Cardin

I apologise that you have yet to receive a response to your request. I
have contacted the assigned officer, requesting that you be informed of
progress.

Regards

Nicola Meadows
Freedom of Information Group

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Andrea Webb,

Dear Mr Cardin

Further to your request I can confirm that there have been a total of 6
COT3 or compromise agreements reached between 2005 and 2010.

The breakdown over the last 6 years is as follows:

2005 - 0
2006 - 1
2007 - 0
2008 - 3
2009 - 0
2010 - 2

Thanks

Andrea Webb
Senior HR Consultant
HR & Payroll Team
Suffolk Coastal DC

( 01394 444693
8 [email address]

Hours: 9.30 until 2.30 Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri.
P please don't print this e-mail unless you really need to.

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Dear Andrea Webb,

Many thanks for your response.

Please could you answer the second question in the original email i.e. Does the council use 'gagging clauses' within compromise agreements which restrict the signatory employee's statutory rights regarding FOI / DPA requests in the future?

Apologies for any confusion that may have been caused,

many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Andrea Webb,

Hello Paul

Sorry that I missed some information off. Yes, we do include a
confidentaility clause as part of any compromise agreement.

Thanks

Andrea Webb
Senior HR Consultant
HR & Payroll Team
Suffolk Coastal DC

* 01394 444693

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Hours: 9.30 until 2.30 Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri.

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Dear Andrea Webb,

With respect, please read all the posts I've made again. This is a really important question.

I know you include a confidentiality clause.

But in your compromise agreements, do you include a gagging clause which is specifically aimed at restricting the person's statutory rights to access publically held information or data via FOI / DPA requests in the future?

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Andrea Webb,

Dear Paul
We do not include any form of gagging clause in our compromise
agreements which aim to restrict a person's statutory right to access
publically held information or data via FOI/DPA requests. I have consulted
with our legal team, who are of the view that we would not be likely to
use such a clause in any future agreements.

I trust this satisfies your request.

Regards

Andrea Webb

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Dear Andrea Webb,

Many thanks for your reply,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

345 Councils were asked these questions. Suffolk Coastal District Council responded outside the statutory limit, taking 23 working days to respond positively and in full.

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.

East Devon positively commented with regard to FOI / DP related gagging clauses: "We do not include any form of gagging clause in our compromise agreements which aim to restrict a person's statutory right to access publically held information or data via FOI/DPA requests. I have consulted with our legal team, who are of the view that we would not be likely to use such a clause in any future agreements.."

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 - although 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