Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Winchester City Council

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The request was successful.

Dear Winchester City 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

Winchester City Council

Customer Enquiry Response Email

Dear Mr Paul Cardin,

Thank you for your freedom of information request which was received by the Winchester City Council Customer Service team today (11/01/2011)

The request has been logged as received and has been passed to the appropriate department to be answered. You will receive a response within 20 working days

Thank you,

Catherine Watson
Customer Service Centre,
Winchester City Council.
Telephone: 01962 840 222
Internet: http://www.winchester.gov.uk ,

Information about Contacting the Council can be found at http://www.winchester.gov.uk/contact/

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Winchester City Council

Dear Mr Cardin

I refer to the request set out below and received on 11 January.

I have discussed the matter with our Head of Organisational
Development who has overall responsibility for Human Resources
matters.

She tells me that our records go back for 7 years and over that
period of time, Winchester City Council has not signed any compromise
agreements directly related to the resolving of dispute/ grievance/
internal or external investigation or whistle blowing incidents.

Nor has the Council required any ex-employee to forego their rights
under Freedom of Information or Data Protection Act, either as part
of a compromise agreement or otherwise. I doubt whether such an
agreement would be enforceable.

Winchester City Council is not a Local Education Authority and
therefore does not employ teaching staff.

Yours sincerely

Fiona Sutherland
Planning and Information Solicitor
Winchester City Council
City Offices
Colebrook Street
Winchester SO23 9LJ
Tel: 01962 848 513

ENQUIRY

An enquiry came in for you on 11/01/2011 at 09:21 from

Mr Paul Cardin

Email: [FOI #57377 email]

The nature of the customers enquiry related to:

Dear Winchester City 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

Fiona Sutherland
Planning and Information Solicitor
Winchester City Council
City Offices
Colebrook Street
Winchester SO23 9LJ
Tel: 01962 848 513

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Winchester City Council were one of the quicker respondents of the 345 councils asked, taking 17 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 ()

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