Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Suffolk 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 partially successful.

Dear Suffolk County 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

Information Management Services, Suffolk County Council

Dear Mr. Cardin

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 - ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Thank you for your request received on 10 January 2011 requesting
information about compromise agreements.

Your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 and will be answered within 20 working days.

While no charges are made for the submission of requests, the council is
entitled to apply reasonable costs for disbursements (i.e. photocopying,
postage etc). Where such costs are under £5.00 the council is pleased to
make no charge, however, if costs exceed that limit then these additional
costs are payable to the council. Where charges will apply proper notice
will be given to you prior to the information being released. For more
information on charges please use the following link to our website:
[1]http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilandDemo...

If you have any queries about this request do not hesitate to contact us.
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

Adele Rhodes Girling
Information Compliance Officer
Corporate Information and Records Management
Information and Data Management
Suffolk County Council
Endeavour House
Russell Road
Ipswich
IP1 2BX

Tel: 01473 264618
Fax: 01473 216824
Email: [2][email address]
Web: [3]www.suffolk.gov.uk

Emails sent to and from this organisation will be monitored in accordance
with the law to ensure compliance with policies and to minimise any
security risks.
The information contained in this email or any of its attachments may
be privileged or confidential and is intended for the exclusive use of
the addressee. Any unauthorised use may be unlawful. If you receive
this email by mistake, please advise the sender immediately by using
the reply facility in your email software.

References

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1. http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilandDemo...
2. mailto:[email address]
3. file:///tmp/www.suffolk.gov.uk

Dear Information Management Services,

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

Suffolk County Council

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References

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1. mailto:[email address]

Information Management Services, Suffolk County Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr. Cardin

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 - REQUEST RESPONSE

Thank you for your request received on 10 January 2011 requesting
information about compromise agreements.
We are sorry that you feel our response is late in arriving to you. Under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000 we have 20 working days in which to
respond. This time frame starts the day after a valid request is
received. While we endeavour to respond as quickly as possible some
requests take longer to retrieve the information than others. We are
therefore responding to you on the 20th working day after receipt of your
request.
The information you requested is attached.
Most information supplied by Suffolk County Council will have been
produced within the Council and will continue to be protected by
copyright. You are free to use it for your own purposes, including for
private study and non-commercial research, and for any other purpose
authorised by an exception in current copyright law. Documents (except
photographs) can be also used in the UK without requiring permission for
the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for example commercial
publication, would require the permission of the copyright holder.

If the information you have been sent includes a copyright statement, you
must not alter or remove this statement. For information about re-using
copyright see the Office of Public Sector Information website at
[1]www.opsi.gov.uk. The copyright in some documents may rest with a third
party. For information about obtaining permission from a third party see
the Intellectual Property Office's website at [2]www.ipo.gov.uk.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be
submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your
original letter and should be sent to: Head of Corporate Information and
Records Management, Endeavour House, 8 Russell Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1
2BX or, alternatively, by email for the attention of the Head of Corporate
Information and Records Management at
[3][email address].

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information
Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9
5AF.

Yours sincerely,

Adele Rhodes Girling
Information Compliance Officer
Corporate Information and Records Management
Information and Data Management
Suffolk County Council
Endeavour House
Russell Road
Ipswich
IP1 2BX

Tel: 01473 264618
Fax: 01473 216824
Email: [4][email address]
Web: [5]www.suffolk.gov.uk

Emails sent to and from this organisation will be monitored in accordance
with the law to ensure compliance with policies and to minimise any
security risks.
The information contained in this email or any of its attachments may
be privileged or confidential and is intended for the exclusive use of
the addressee. Any unauthorised use may be unlawful. If you receive
this email by mistake, please advise the sender immediately by using
the reply facility in your email software.

References

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1. file:///tmp/www.opsi.gov.uk
2. file:///tmp/www.ipo.gov.uk
3. mailto:[email address]
4. mailto:[email address]
5. file:///tmp/www.suffolk.gov.uk

Dear Suffolk County Council,

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

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

I appreciate receiving figures for compromise agreements, however to be told that the council does not hold figures for reasons why compromise agreements were issued seems unlikely. Particularly given that approaching 200 councils have been able to provide full and detailed answers including annual totals. I always aim to reduce the amount of worked involved and therefore the demands on the public purse, but in this instance an internal review has become unavoidable.

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

Information Management Services, Suffolk County Council

Dear Mr. Cardin

We are sorry that you are unhappy with the response to your access to
information request 3034.

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) and Environmental
Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) we will conduct an internal review of
our response.

Internal reviews are conducted by the Head of Corporate Information and
Records and we aim to complete them within 20 working days.

Kind regards

Adele Rhodes Girling

Information Compliance Officer

Corporate Information and Records

Information and Data Management

Suffolk County Council

Endeavour House, Russell Road, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 2BX

Tel: 01473 264618

Fax: 01473 216824

Email: [1][email address]

Web: [2]www.suffolkcc.gov.uk

Emails sent to and from this organisation will be monitored in accordance
with the law to ensure compliance with policies and to minimise any
security risks.
The information contained in this email or any of its attachments may
be privileged or confidential and is intended for the exclusive use of
the addressee. Any unauthorised use may be unlawful. If you receive
this email by mistake, please advise the sender immediately by using
the reply facility in your email software.

References

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

Dear Suffolk County Council,

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

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

I am confirming the internal review that your have instigated.

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

Information Management Services, Suffolk County Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your e-mail of 14 February regarding the internal review you requested on 7 February regarding the information we released to you about compromise agreements.

As you will know, we acknowledged receipt of your internal review request on the same day, 7 February, and confirmed that we would reply to you within 20 working days. The internal review is in progress. I will be pleased to reply to you as soon as I have completed that review and have the necessary details to provide you with an informed response.

Yours sincerely

Doug Reed
Head of Corporate Information and Records
Suffolk County Council

show quoted sections

Information Management Services, Suffolk County Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Internal Review (FOI Request No. 3034)

With regard to your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to
this Council (reference 3034), about compromise agreements, which resulted
in you being dissatisfied with the outcome, I am writing to confirm that I
have now completed the internal review of the response you received.

Your concern was as follows:
I appreciate receiving figures for compromise agreements, however to be
told that the council does not hold
figures for reasons why compromise agreements were issued seems unlikely.
Particularly given that approaching 200 councils have been able to provide
full and detailed answers including annual totals. I always aim to reduce
the amount of worked involved and therefore the demands on the public
purse, but in this instance an internal review has become unavoidable.

I approached senior officers involved in the initial response and reviewed
the information the Council holds about compromise agreements. While I
appreciate that it may be surprising from your perspective, it is clear
that the original response was correct.

In that our Legal Services staff are involved in compromise agreements,
they simply note that parties have entered into such agreements by 'mutual
consent'. The system used by those who process the Council's staffing data
does not record the reasons for the generation of any compromise
agreements.

I understand that you may have been provided, by some other councils, with
the reasons for their compromise agreements but information retained and
held by local councils does vary and it would seem that this area is a
case in point.

I appreciate that this might be frustrating but Suffolk County Council
cannot supply what it does not have.

Accordingly, I am unable, on the Council's behalf, to supply you with any
further information and, as a consequence, am unable to uphold your
complaint regarding the situation.

You have the right to contact the Information Commissioner if you feel the
internal review has not been handled to your satisfaction. The Information
Commissioner can be contacted at:

Wycliff House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF
Telephone: 0303 123 1113
Website: [1]http://www.ico.gov.uk

Yours sincerely

Doug Reed
Head of Corporate Information and Records
Suffolk County Council

Emails sent to and from this organisation will be monitored in accordance
with the law to ensure compliance with policies and to minimise any
security risks.
The information contained in this email or any of its attachments may
be privileged or confidential and is intended for the exclusive use of
the addressee. Any unauthorised use may be unlawful. If you receive
this email by mistake, please advise the sender immediately by using
the reply facility in your email software.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.ico.gov.uk/

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Suffolk County 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 ()

More controversial information related to this area appeared in today's Daily Telegraph. This supports an article in the most recent issue of Private Eye - which referred to 13 senior staff being pressurised out of their posts. Some of the detail in the following link appears to contradict Suffolk's statement (see above) - "The Council does not hold information on the reason why a compromise agreement is required" - which appears at best ill-advised and at worst, false.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics...

An appeal was lodged with the ICO on 3rd May 2011.

Richard Taylor left an annotation ()

A number of newspapers today are carrying articles about the total spent on “compromise agreements” at Suffolk County Council; the sum quoted being £405,665.

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/2479...

The articles today refer to just 13 agreements signed in a 12 week period. The response to this FOI request shows the total number of agreements in Suffolk is many times higher.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Suffolk County Council, of the 345 English Councils asked appear to be the only one to claim that the information is "not held".

An appeal was lodged with the Information Commissioner's Office on 3rd May and later added to on 20th May 2011.

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