Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

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

Dear Waltham Forest 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

Information Officer, Waltham Forest Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin

Please see attached your Freedom of Information request acknowledgment.

Marlon Guildford
Information Officer
Learning from Complaints
Residents First
London Borough of Waltham Forest
020 8496 4209

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2011 22:43 >>>
Dear Waltham Forest 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

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Tessa Mapley, Waltham Forest Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Thank you for your request for information received by the Council on
10th January 2011. In your request, you asked for the following
information:

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.

In response, I can confirm that the London Borough of Waltham Forest
holds the requested information and advise you as follows:

1.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) - according to our records these are as set out below:

2005 - 17
2006 - 21
2007 - 20
2008 - 75
2009 - 26
2010 - 38
2011 - up to 31st January 2011 - 0

2. 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. I am advised
by our Legal Team that the response to this is none.

I trust that the above satisfies your enquiry. If you have any queries
about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote the
reference number above in any future communications.

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, you have the right to
complain about the Council’s response to your request for information.
If you wish to pursue such a complaint, please do so within 28 days from
the date of this letter and ask for a review of the Council’s
decision. Please write to: The Information Officer, Learning from
Complaints Team, Room 104, Waltham Forest Town Hall, Walthamstow E17
4JF, or email [email address]. Please mark
your request clearly as “Request for Review”.

If after receiving a response to the review, you remain dissatisfied
with the Council’s response, you have the right to complain to the
Information Commissioner. Further information can be obtained via the
Information Commissioner’s helpline 0303 123 1113 or their website at:
http://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints/freedom...

Tessa Mapley
Compliance & Performance Consultant
Strategic HR
People, Policy and Performance
Tel: 020 8496 4519

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Dear Tessa Mapley,

Thanks very much for your response.

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 plese 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.

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

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Tessa Mapley, Waltham Forest Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

The figures I sent were taken from monitoring information provided by
the Council's Legal and Payroll systems teams. I set out below the
figures excluding the categories set out in your email. I regret that
there are a number of cases where a reason has not been recorded in the
monitoring records. (I have stated in brackets after each figure the
number of cases included in that figure for which a reason is not
recorded). It is possible that some of the cases for which data is not
recorded may also fall into the categories you asked me to exclude.

2005 - 17 (includes 17 cases for which a reason is not recorded on the
Council's monitoring information)
2006 - 21 (includes 18 cases for which a reason is not recorded on the
Council's monitoring information)
2007 - 18 (includes 8 cases for which a reason is not recorded on the
Council's monitoring information)
2008 - 16 (includes 6 cases for which a reason is not recorded on the
Council's monitoring information)
2009 - 22 (includes 11 cases for which a reason is not recorded on the
Council's monitoring information)
2010 - 32 (includes 8 cases for which a reason is not recorded on the
Council's monitoring information)

I am advised by the Council's Legal team that to provide the reasons
for all of the cases for which a reason is not currently recorded, would
mean examining individual case-files. It is estimated that the cost of
doing this, to comply fully with your request would exceed the
appropriate limit of £450. The appropriate limit has been specified in
the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit of
Fees) Regulations 2004 and for Local Government it is set at £450. This
represents the estimated cost of one person spending 18 hours in
determining whether the Council holds the information and locating,
retrieving and extracting the information.

Kind regards

Tess

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Dear Waltham Forest Borough Council,

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

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

Given the broader context to my research, and that 181 councils have responded positively and in full to this request, there appears to be a kind of 'postcode lottery' at play.

I would appreciate it greatly if a senior officer, with the public interest at heart, could look into other more effective ways of locating the information.

I regret the extra public expense that this situation is giving rise to, but it has now 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 Officer, Waltham Forest Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin

Please see the attached Freedom of Information Request Review acknowledgment.

Marlon Guildford
Information Officer
Learning from Complaints
Residents First
London Borough of Waltham Forest
020 8496 4209

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Dear Waltham Forest Borough Council,

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

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

Given the broader context to my research, and that 181 councils
have responded positively and in full to this request, there
appears to be a kind of 'postcode lottery' at play.

I would appreciate it greatly if a senior officer, with the public
interest at heart, could look into other more effective ways of
locating the information.

I regret the extra public expense that this situation is giving
rise to, but it has now 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

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Graeme Rawlings, Waltham Forest Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

I refer to your request for review (reproduced below) under the FOI Act,
received by the Council on 7th February 2011.

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

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

Given the broader context to my research, and that 181 councils have
responded positively and in full to this request, there appears to be a
kind of 'postcode lottery' at play.

I would appreciate it greatly if a senior officer, with the public
interest at heart, could look into other more effective ways of locating
the information.

I regret the extra public expense that this situation is giving rise to,
but it has now become unavoidable.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on
the Internet at this address:

[1]http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/to...

I have carried out the review by asking the Council's Legal Department to
provide an estimate of the time it would take for them to add the reasons
for compensation cases where none are currently recorded on the compromise
agreement monitoring sheet. They have responded advising me that:

Legal keep a paper file of matters they deal with. The paper file is
stored for at least 6 years at the conclusion of the case. That is a
traditional way for lawyers to store information. There is also a computer
file (monitoring sheet) kept but that is not comprehensive and for
accurate information the paper file is more reliable. The estimated time
to comply with your request is 56.7 hours based on the following work that
would need to be done: retrieval of 68 paper files from off-site archive
storage, analysing the files to look at the background, returning the
files to off-site storage, summarising the data and passing summary to the
FOI co-ordinator in HR and time for HR to collate the data. This is based
on the work taking 50 minutes per case.

In the response to your Freedom of Information Request, we estimated that
the cost of complying with your request would exceed the appropriate limit
of £450. The appropriate limit has been specified in the Freedom of
Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit of Fees) Regulations
2004 and for Local Government it is set at £450. This represents the
estimated cost of one person spending 18 hours in determining whether the
Council holds the information and locating, retrieving and extracting the
information. The estimated time for responding to the request you made is
56.7 hours.

As a result of my review, I can advise you that I am upholding the initial
decision not to comply with your request under section 12 of the Freedom
of Information Act as we estimate that complying would exceed the
appropriate limit, as set out above.

If you remain dissatisfied with this response, you have the right to make
a complaint to the Information Commissioner. If you wish to pursue such a
complaint, please write to:

First Contact Team
Information Commissioners Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
SK9 5AF

Alternatively, you can contact the office via their helpline: 0303 123
1113.

You can obtain further information about this via this link:
[2]http://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints/freedom...

Yours sincerely

Graeme Rawlings
Learning & Organisational Development Manager

Graeme Rawlings
Learning & Organisational Development Manager
Strategic Human Resources
LB Waltham Forest
Forest Road
London E17 4JF
Tel: 020 8496 4419
[3][email address]

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: The information contained in this e-mail is
intended only for the individual, persons or entity to whom it is
addressed.

It may contain privileged and confidential information and, if you are not
the intended recipient, you must not read, copy or distribute it, nor take
any action in reliance upon it. If you have received this e-mail in error,
please inform the sender as soon as possible and delete the e-mail from
your computer.

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Waltham Forest Borough 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 ()

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