Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Trafford Metropolitan 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 successful.

Dear Trafford 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

Data Protection, Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I refer to your request below. However, we are unable to answer your
request as it currently stands for the following reason.

Trafford Council does not hold separate statistics of compromise
agreements as described in your question. To ascertain the information
would necessitate inspecting each leaver's file. We have considered the
time it would take to collate the information together, and this is
estimated to substantially exceed the statutory time allowed in the Act,
namely 18 hours. There have been over 1500 leavers in the last five
years alone. Records are not kept in one location, nor are there fields
for compromise agreements we could interrogate. It would be necessary to
examine each file to ascertain the information requested. The Council is
therefore not obliged to answer the request as it stands.

If you are able to refine your request it may be that we could supply
some information which would be useful to you. Please let me know if you
require assistance in this matter.

Whilst we therefore cannot answer your second question, I would state
that an individual's rights under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
and the Data Protection Act 1998 are set by
statute. Nothing within law would allow any organisation to enforce an
agreement to sign away one's legal rights in this respect, and I do not
believe such an agreement would even be legally binding. It seems
unlikely therefore that any such conditions could or would be included
within a compromise agreement.

Please let me know if you require any further information.

Yours sincerely

Nick Evans
Corporate Information Officer
Trafford Council
Office address:
Legal Services
Trafford Town Hall
Talbot Road
Stretford
M32 0TH

Office phone number: 0161 912 1324
Office fax number: 0161 912 4294

Trafford Council is a well-performing, low-cost council working with
Trafford Partnership to make Trafford a great place to live, learn, work
and relax.
You can find out more about us by visiting www.trafford.gov.uk

.

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Dear Nick,

Thank you for your refusal, along with the explanation.

May I refine my request as follows. Please don't include the following:

1. Employees who may have left the council and signed compromise agreements which relate to redundancy alone

2. Employees who may have left the council and signed compromise agreements which relate to equal pay and / or redundancy

3. Employees who may have left the council following the initiation of tribunal proceedings (COT3 agreements)

4. Please also restrict your queries to the period between 2005 and 2010.

Please note that I am researching and building a National database. Since 3rd January 2011, I have received 30 full and positive replies from councils of varying size. These councils were only too pleased to provide the information. I am hopeful that given this wider context and the above refinement of the original request, you will be able to respond positively.

I don't envisage that your particular method of storing information should be an obstacle to the free and fair provision of public information. Certainly not one that satisfies any of the exclusions detailed within the Act,

many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Data Protection, Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I refer to your refined request below. I can give you the following
information.

The numbers of employees who have signed compromise agreements for
reasons excluding those listed in your request are as follows:

2005 - 4
2006 - 3
2007 - 2
2008 - 8
2009 - 5
2010 - 12

Please let me know if you require any further information.

Yours sincerely

Nick Evans
Corporate Information Officer
Trafford Council
Office address:
Legal Services
Trafford Town Hall
Talbot Road
Stretford
M32 0TH

Office phone number: 0161 912 1324
Office fax number: 0161 912 4294

Trafford Council is a well-performing, low-cost council working with
Trafford Partnership to make Trafford a great place to live, learn, work
and relax.
You can find out more about us by visiting www.trafford.gov.uk

.

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Richmondshire District Council were one of the quicker respondents of the 345 councils asked, taking 18 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.

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 - and to date, 65 working days have elapsed

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Correction to the last message. Obviously I meant Trafford Borough Council!!

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