Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Thurrock Borough 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 Thurrock Borough Council.

Dear Thurrock Borough 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

Bone, Linda, Thurrock Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin,
Please see the attached letter with regards to your Freedom of Information
request.
<<Acknowledgement Letter 2114.doc>>
Many thanks.
Regards,
Linda Bone
Freedom of Information Co-ordinator
Thurrock Council
Civic Offices
New Road
Grays
Essex
RM17 6SL
Tel. 01375 366202

The information in this e-mail and any attachment(s) are intended to be
confidential and may be legally privileged. Access to and use of its
content by anyone else other than the addressee(s) may be unlawful and
will not be recognised by Thurrock Council for business purposes. If you
have received this message by mistake, please notify the sender
immediately, delete it and do not copy it to anyone else. Thurrock Council
cannot accept any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this
message as it has been transmitted over a public network.

Any opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the opinions of Thurrock Council.

Any attachment(s) to this message has been checked for viruses, but please
rely on your own virus checker and procedures.

Senders and recipients of e-mail should be aware that under the UK Data
Protection and Freedom of Information legislation these contents may have
to be disclosed in response to a request.

All e-mail sent to or from this address will be processed by Thurrock
Council's corporate e-mail system and may be subject to scrutiny by
someone other than the addressee.

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Bone, Linda, Thurrock Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin,
Please see the attached letter with regards to your Freedom of Information
request.
<<Reply Letter 2114 v2.doc>>
Many thanks.
Regards,
Linda Bone
Freedom of Information Co-ordinator
Thurrock Council
Civic Offices
New Road
Grays
Essex
RM17 6SL
Tel. 01375 366202

The information in this e-mail and any attachment(s) are intended to be
confidential and may be legally privileged. Access to and use of its
content by anyone else other than the addressee(s) may be unlawful and
will not be recognised by Thurrock Council for business purposes. If you
have received this message by mistake, please notify the sender
immediately, delete it and do not copy it to anyone else. Thurrock Council
cannot accept any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this
message as it has been transmitted over a public network.

Any opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the opinions of Thurrock Council.

Any attachment(s) to this message has been checked for viruses, but please
rely on your own virus checker and procedures.

Senders and recipients of e-mail should be aware that under the UK Data
Protection and Freedom of Information legislation these contents may have
to be disclosed in response to a request.

All e-mail sent to or from this address will be processed by Thurrock
Council's corporate e-mail system and may be subject to scrutiny by
someone other than the addressee.

show quoted sections

Dear Linda,

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. So far, I have had 179 (one hundred and seventy
nine) 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 and I have queried
ALL English Councils. I am trying to be as accurate as possible in
this. I noticed that your declared figures look a little 'on the
high side'. If possible, could you please exclude all COT3
agreements, and 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

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.

I imagine that some councils may be taking a different approach to searching for the information.

It may help if you query your Accounts Department. I say this
because when employees leave in the circumstances I am describing,
they are offered a financial incentive to end their working
contracts and reach a full and final settlement. Your Accounts
department may keep an electronic record of all such payments
within a data storage / retrieval system, it should not be too
difficult 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 and look forward to your
response.

I hope the above information assists you. I'm not sure that the
possession of an inadequate data storage / retrieval system
warrants the use of an exclusion under the FOI Act and look forward
to your response,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Bone, Linda, Thurrock Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin,
Please see the attached letter in response to your email below.
Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying.
Many thanks.
Regards,
Linda Bone
Freedom of Information Co-ordinator
Thurrock Council
Civic Offices
New Road
Grays
Essex
RM17 6SL
Tel. 01375 366202

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Dear Bone, Linda,

Thanks for the information. I was a little perturbed that you have not outlined or detailed any plans to modify the manner in which you store public information. Currently, access to this information appears to be remarkably difficult. I would have hoped for some reassurance that you plan to improve what looks like a cumbersome data storage / retrieval system, in the interests of public access.

I have done some quick maths and have worked out that if I was to request 5 years of information as opposed to 6, the estimate would come to £490. (£98 per year)

Although this is £40 above the permitted total, I don't believe that each of the required files WILL be held in a separate box. This would be a highly unlikely eventuality. I have good reason to believe that the eventual total will therefore NOT go above £450.

I'd be most grateful if you went ahead with this proposal for the years between 2006 and 2010, and provided annual totals for each year. Please could you also provide a categorical response to the second part of the original request i.e. the use of FOI / DPA related "gagging clauses"?

many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Bone, Linda, Thurrock Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin,
Further to your email received 15.3.11, please see the attached letter
with regards to your Freedom of Information request.

<<Acknowledgement Letter 2253.doc>>
Many thanks.
Regards,
Linda Bone
Freedom of Information Co-ordinator
Thurrock Council
Civic Offices
New Road
Grays
Essex
RM17 6SL
Tel. 01375 366202

The information in this e-mail and any attachment(s) are intended to be
confidential and may be legally privileged. Access to and use of its
content by anyone else other than the addressee(s) may be unlawful and
will not be recognised by Thurrock Council for business purposes. If you
have received this message by mistake, please notify the sender
immediately, delete it and do not copy it to anyone else. Thurrock Council
cannot accept any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this
message as it has been transmitted over a public network.

Any opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the opinions of Thurrock Council.

Any attachment(s) to this message has been checked for viruses, but please
rely on your own virus checker and procedures.

Senders and recipients of e-mail should be aware that under the UK Data
Protection and Freedom of Information legislation these contents may have
to be disclosed in response to a request.

All e-mail sent to or from this address will be processed by Thurrock
Council's corporate e-mail system and may be subject to scrutiny by
someone other than the addressee.

show quoted sections

Dear Bone, Linda,

If you take another 20 working days, that will be 70 working days in total.

I'm quite stunned by your response.

After all, I merely asked you to consider a suggestion I'd made in order to help. You haven't acknowledged this at all, but quoted back a previous request, and availed yourself of another 20 working days' grace.

Not happy !

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Cook, Nadine, Thurrock Borough Council

Hi Paul,

Linda has referred to me and my manager for advice regarding the
handling of your enquiries, since we responded to your initial request.

I wanted to step in at this point to explain our position. We are not in
any way attempting to block access to the information you've requested.
We do have to work within the parameters of the legislation, our own
internal procedures, and when required, additional guidance issued by
the Information Commissioner's Office. I fully appreciate that it must
be frustrating from your perspective that we were unable to respond in
full to your original request. However, we did meet the initial 20
working day deadline; albeit with a partial response - this is permitted
within the legislation (as are full refusals in some circumstances).

We don't issues fees notices without full consideration of all the
circumstances, and we liaised with the data owners (HR) carefully to
ensure that the fees estimate and charges were justified and the reasons
for this. Our FOI Coordinators (of which Linda is one) are responsible
for processing requests and are not accountable for the existing records
management processes that already exist within specific departments. As
part of corporate learning from FOIs, our team will be responsible for
highlighting any areas of concern with relevant managers and providing
feedback.

In terms of the current position; my manager and I agreed the best way
forward, based on your email to Linda reducing the scope of your
request. We have worked within the stipulated guidance for handling fees
estimates, disbursement costs and the timeframes. We are entitled to
begin a new FOI timeframe following any applicant's reduction of scope
of a request as technically it is a new request; and we interpreted your
email in this vein.

We'd like the opportunity to meet your request and give you as much data
as we can without you incurring fees for time involved (within the
Appropriate Limit). Linda has instructed the department from today to
proceed with the current request.

Please let me know if you're happy to give us the chance to respond to
your current request. If you are not, and you would like to make a
formal complaint at this stage, and/or cancel the current request,
please let me know.

Kind regards,

Nadine

Nadine Cook
Senior Information Management Officer
Policy and Organisation Development
01375 652590
[email address]

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Dear Cook, Nadine,

Thanks for the explanation. It's not good to learn that reductions in scope, made in good faith, will be greeted by the slapping down of 20 day extensions - done on a technicality. Where is the public good will here?

With regard to my particular request, here are some sample full and positive response times - for information and comparison purposes:

Colchester Borough Council - 1 working day
Halton Borough Council - 3 working days
Northamptonshire County Council - 10 working days

Thurrock Borough Council - 51 working days and counting.

273 Councils have responded positively and in full so far, since 1st January, and I'd appreciate some helpful answers rather than the evasiveness that appears to be on display,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Cook, Nadine, Thurrock Borough Council

Hi Paul,

I am genuinely sorry you feel that way. However, I'm only able to give
advice and comment on the current situation, regarding how this data is
held at Thurrock and not for other Council's.

I would like to reiterate that we have met the first FOI deadline and
have issued a factual and open response based on the circumstances.

On the basis of your comments below, we'll continue to process your
current request and will aim to have the data with you as soon as we
can, and certainly within the timeframe.

Kind regards,

Nadine

Nadine Cook
Senior Information Management Officer
Policy and Organisation Development
01375 652590
[email address]

show quoted sections

Bone, Linda, Thurrock Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin,
Please see the attached letter with regards to your Freedom of Information
request.
<<Fee Letter 2253.doc>>
Many thanks.
Regards,
Linda Bone
Freedom of Information Co-ordinator
Thurrock Council
Civic Offices
New Road
Grays
Essex
RM17 6SL
Tel. 01375 366202

The information in this e-mail and any attachment(s) are intended to be
confidential and may be legally privileged. Access to and use of its
content by anyone else other than the addressee(s) may be unlawful and
will not be recognised by Thurrock Council for business purposes. If you
have received this message by mistake, please notify the sender
immediately, delete it and do not copy it to anyone else. Thurrock Council
cannot accept any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this
message as it has been transmitted over a public network.

Any opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the opinions of Thurrock Council.

Any attachment(s) to this message has been checked for viruses, but please
rely on your own virus checker and procedures.

Senders and recipients of e-mail should be aware that under the UK Data
Protection and Freedom of Information legislation these contents may have
to be disclosed in response to a request.

All e-mail sent to or from this address will be processed by Thurrock
Council's corporate e-mail system and may be subject to scrutiny by
someone other than the addressee.

show quoted sections

Dear Thurrock Borough Council,

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

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

Thanks for your responses to date, however you are the first council (of 345 English Councils approached) to resort to charging a fee. I appreciate that the FOI Act makes provision for this, however I believe the rules therein have been incorrectly applied. I do not regard the retrieval of information as a disbursement - neither was the possibility of charging referred to in earlier responses. I would now like to ask that you reconsider my earlier request to provide information for the years between 2006 and 2010 in accordance with the information supplied so far.

Please could you also pay particular attention to the second part of the original request, regarding FOI / DPA gagging clauses within compromise agreements. This query is policy-related, and could be answered by the people who draw up your compromise agreements, although I appreciate that answers may also reside within the information you are attempting to charge me for.

Please take into account all the information I have supplied to date. As an update on the wider context of this request, I have now received 282 full and positive responses from your LGA colleagues - none of whom have resorted to charging for the information.

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

Walker, Josie, Thurrock Borough Council

Thurrock Council welcomes Typetalk calls

Our Ref: REF-013192
Direct Dial: 0845 3005263
Fax: 01375 366222

Date: 6^th April 2011 Email: [1][email address]

Private & Confidential

.
Dear Mr Cardin

RE: Stage 2 complaint

Thank you for your E-mail received on 04 April 2011 regarding the above.
I am sorry that you have had cause to complain.

I can advise you that your complaint has been recorded in line with the
Council's corporate complaints process and will be investigated thoroughly
and fairly by the department concerned.

The Council takes all complaints seriously and undertakes its
investigations thoroughly and fairly. Our aim is to deal with your
complaint as quickly as possible, certainly within 28 working days.
However, there are occasions when there is a need to extend this deadline,
should this be the case you will of course be notified.

If you remain dissatisfied with the response you receive please put your
concerns in writing within 28 days from the date of the response letter.
Any further complaints received will then be considered for investigation
at Stage 3.

If, in the meantime you are unhappy with the way we are dealing with your
complaint, or you need any further information, please do not hesitate to
contact the Customer Liaison Team on 0845 3005263 quoting the above
reference number.

Yours sincerely

Lee Henley
Information Manager

Data Protection Statement: In order to process your complaint the Council
needs to record the personal data you are providing on our complaints
system. Access to the information will be on a strictly need to know
basis in order to process your complaint. In some cases, we may also need
to check information already held about you on other Council systems -
e.g. if this could affect the outcome of your complaint. Any checks of
this type will be made securely and confidentially and only where
necessary. All information will be held securely and will be retained in
line with our documented retention policy.

The information in this e-mail and any attachment(s) are intended to be
confidential and may be legally privileged. Access to and use of its
content by anyone else other than the addressee(s) may be unlawful and
will not be recognised by Thurrock Council for business purposes. If you
have received this message by mistake, please notify the sender
immediately, delete it and do not copy it to anyone else. Thurrock Council
cannot accept any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this
message as it has been transmitted over a public network.

Any opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the opinions of Thurrock Council.

Any attachment(s) to this message has been checked for viruses, but please
rely on your own virus checker and procedures.

Senders and recipients of e-mail should be aware that under the UK Data
Protection and Freedom of Information legislation these contents may have
to be disclosed in response to a request.

All e-mail sent to or from this address will be processed by Thurrock
Council's corporate e-mail system and may be subject to scrutiny by
someone other than the addressee.

show quoted sections

Merrin, Jenny, Thurrock Borough Council

3 Attachments

Dear Mr Cardin

Please find attached our response in regards to your stage two complaint.
This is logged under reference 013192.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require further information
regarding this compalint.

Kind regards
Jenny Merrin
Complaints Co-ordinator

---------- Activity Start

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Thurrock Borough Council went to internal review, before deciding against supplying the information. This internal review failed and I will now appeal to the Information Commissioner's Office.

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 ()

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