Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

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

Dear Camden Borough Council,

Please supply totals for the following:

Since the inception of Camden Borough Council, or as far as records go back, the annual figures for the total number of current employees or ex-employees of Camden Borough 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 who have agreed, following the matter being raised and made conditional as part of a compromise agreement drawn up by Camden Borough Council's legal team, to 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 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

Michael Warby, Camden Borough Council

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Camden Council - Information request (FOI/EIR) - Central team

Our reference: 6812846

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Dear Michael Warby,

By law, I believe the authority should have responded promptly and by 1st February 2011.

Although I have received no response, to assist, I would like to 'sharpen' and 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

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.

Many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Michael Warby, Camden Borough Council

1 Attachment

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request received on 4^th January
2011. I apologise for the delay in sending a response.

You requested information on the following:
1. Since the inception of Camden Borough Council, or as far as records go
back, the annual figures for the total number of current employees or
ex-employees of Camden Borough Council who have signed compromise
agreements directly related to the resolving of dispute(s) / grievance(s)
/ internal and external investigation(s) / whistleblowing incident(s).
Response
In accordance with Section 1(1) (a) of the Freedom of Information Act I am
obliged to inform you that the information you requested is not held by
Camden Council. I have been informed by our Human Resources department
that no information is held in relation to compromise agreements.
2. In addition to this, annual figures for the number of current employees
/ ex-employees who have agreed, following the matter being raised and made
conditional as part of a compromise agreement drawn up by Camden Borough
Council's legal team, to forgo their right to approach the council in the
future with Freedom of Information and/or DPA Subject Access requests
under the relevant Acts.
Response
Please see response above.

I apologise that your request cannot be met but if you have any further
information needs in the future then please contact us.

With regard to our response above can you confirm if you wish for your
subsequent request surrounding this subject to be considered?

Camden Council - Information request (FOI/EIR) - Central team

Our reference: 6812846

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Dear Michael Warby,

Many thanks for your response.

I am concerned that you appear to have missed my second message which significantly reduced the scope of the original request. (I state this because you quoted back to me the original message, sent in very early January).

It is now 32 working days since my original request, yet you have taken what looks like an inordinate amount of time just to tell me you don't hold the information.

Here is some context information which may assist. I appreciate your position however this query is identical to one which has been sent to ALL English councils. To date, since January 1st 2011, I have had 214 (two hundred and fourteen) full and detailed positive responses. The vast majority of these councils did not have any difficulty in responding to my request.

I am currently involved in research in this area, with the aim of viewing trends and movements nationally. When your response didn’t arrive within the first 20 working days, I reduced the scope, in good faith and in order to make the task more manageable.

I asked if you could exclude COT3 agreements, also 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
5. Purely voluntary severance situations

I also assisted you further, by narrowing the time period down to between the years 2005 to 2010 i.e. the last six years.

Since hundreds of councils did not find any immediate difficulty, I imagine that they may be taking a different approach to locating the information.

Can I suggest that you query your Accounts Department? I ask this
because when employees leave in the circumstances I am describing,
they are offered a financial incentive to end their working
contracts. Your Accounts department is required to keep a detailed
electronic record of all such payments. As they should be keeping
an adequate data storage / retrieval system, it will not be too
arduous a task 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. I don't believe that the possession of an inadequate or cumbersome data storage / retrieval system warrants the use of an exclusion under the FOI Act.

I’m aware of the need to use public money wisely and don’t want to resort to an internal review too quickly. Although 32 working days have elapsed, I would ask you to reconsider the request in light of all the above and try again.

Finally, I believe that the public interest in releasing this information outweighs the public interest in not releasing it. 214 councils would not appear to contest this viewpoint. I would kindly request that you make a more resolute effort to find the information and supply it as soon as possible,

many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Warby, Michael, Camden Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

I will investigate the points that you have raised in the e-mail below and
respond to you as soon as possible.

Kind regards

Michael Warby

Access to Information Officer - FOI & DPA

Telephone: 020 7974 7857

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Warby, Michael, Camden Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Further to your e-mail below that queried our original response and
requested further investigation of our Finance, Legal and Human Resources
departments. I have now completed my investigations and I can confirm that
our Finance department does not hold the information that you have
requested. The Finance ledger system makes no record of whether or not a
compromise agreement has been signed in the event of someone leaving the
organisation. It may be possible to produce figures that could list the
Council spend across the following nominal accounts: redundancy costs over
the tax threshold, statutory redundancy costs, severance pay and loss of
office payments but information concerning compromise agreements is not
held.

Also our Legal department does not record compromise agreements. Our Legal
department does occasionally provide advice about certain terms within the
agreements but no information concerning this advice is retained.

Our Human Resources department does not record information centrally in
relation to compromise agreements. Information concerning compromise
agreements may be held on the employee file but this would involve an
excessive amount of time (i.e. well over 18 hours) to find which have had
compromise agreements.

I apologise that your request can not be met.

You have the right of appeal against the decision. If you wish to appeal
please set out in writing your grounds of appeal (within 2 months of this
letter) and send it to: Freedom of Information Appeals Panel, Central
Complaints Unit, Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, London WC1H 9JE and your
complaint will be dealt with through our Internal Review procedure.

If you are still not satisfied following the Internal Review, you have a
right to appeal to the Information Commissioner's Office. They can be
contacted at: Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire. SK9 5AF.
Telephone: 01625 545 700
[1]www.ico.gov.uk

Kind regards

Michael Warby

Access to Information Officer - FOI & DPA

Telephone: 020 7974 7857

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Dear Camden Borough Council,

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

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

Thanks for your response and for the time you have devoted to my query.

Your decision not to release the information is unsatisfactory for two reasons:

1. A large number of councils who returned a similar 'costs' exemption response were, like yourself, offered a subsequent reduction in the scope of the initial request. These councils went on to reconsider before proceeding with a full and detailed answer. Whereas you appear not to have acknowledged that I DID reduce the scope of the request when I sent the second email, stating that you had not responded in accordance with the law.
2. The fact that your systems have the information stored in a manner which is not readily identifiable is not a satisfactory answer - particularly given the wider context of this query - which has been made of ALL English councils, and which to date has been answered positively and in full, since 1st January 2011, by 227 (two hundred and twenty seven) local authorities.

I don't think that your possession and maintenance of a cumbersome or inadequate method of storing and retrieving information is an adequate justification for refusal. There were lots of 'Do Not's' within your response and very few 'Do's'. There were also no assurances that you had plans to improve your systems in the future. Given that 11 years have elapsed since the FOI Act, and that hundreds of your LGA colleagues have responded positively, I can only assume you are not as committed to Freedom of Information as the majority of your fellow authorities.

I also believe that the public interest in releasing this information outweighs the public interest in not releasing it - regardless of the costs involved. Costs which seem to be occasioned by the detrimental (to the public) effect of your own inadequate systems.

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

Peter Swingler, Camden Borough Council

Camden Council - Information request (FOI/EIR)

Our reference: 6812846

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Swingler, Peter, Camden Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Paul Cardin

Please refer to the attached decision of the Panel

Yours sincerely

Peter Swingler
On behalf of the Internal Review Panel
FOI Act
LB of Camden
15/3/11
This e-mail may contain information which is confidential, legally
privileged and/or copyright protected. This e-mail is intended for the
addressee only. If you receive this in error, please contact the sender
and delete the material from your computer

Dear Swingler, Peter,

Thank you for your response.

Whilst I consider whether to appeal to the Information Commissioner, please consider and reply to the second part of the original request i.e.

"In addition to this, annual figures for the number of current
employees / ex-employees who have agreed, following the matter
being raised and made conditional as part of a compromise agreement
drawn up by Camden Borough Council's legal team, to 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 don't believe this question has been adequately addressed, either by the original response or by the panel.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Swingler, Peter, Camden Borough Council

I am involved in the Freedom of Information panel and issuing decision
notices today

Pease direct any urgent issues to John Hail on 0207 974 5644 or Stewart
Holmes on 0207 974 5644

The emergency contact number for out of hours for service issues is 0207
974 4444

Please redirect any Freedom of Information Act matters to the FOI Records
Team Telephone 020 7974 7857

Thank you

Peter Swingler
Head of the Central Complaints Unit
LB of Camden

This e-mail may contain information which is confidential, legally
privileged and/or copyright protected. This e-mail is intended for the
addressee only. If you receive this in error, please contact the sender
and delete the material from your computer

Swingler, Peter, Camden Borough Council

Dear Paul Cardin

Thank you

I am sorry if the Panel's response is not clear on this aspect. The
Definitive position as outlined in the Panel's decision letter is the
same in relation to this namely it is not information kept centrally and
would require a search involving a cost in excess of the appropriate
limit

Yours sincerely

Peter Swingler
On behalf of the Internal Review panel
FOI Act
LB of Camden
16/3/11

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Camden Borough Council went to internal review, before deciding against supplying 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.