Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Charnwood 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 Charnwood Borough Council,

Please supply totals for the following:

Since the inception of Charnwood Borough Council, or as far as records go back, the annual figures for the total number of current employees / ex-employees of Charnwood 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 Charnwood 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

Bilton Megan, Charnwood Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Your information request (Our reference FOI 1136) received on 4 January 2011 by e-mail is acknowledged.

Your request is being considered and, subject to it not being covered by an exemption or requiring the payment of a fee, you should receive the information within 20 working days, the statutory timescale as defined in the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Whilst the Council's aim is to comply with an information request wherever possible the Act does set out a number of exemptions that may prevent release of the information to you. We will undertake an assessment of these and if any of the exemptions do apply to the information that you have requested we will not be able to supply it. However, you will be notified if this is the case along with reasons why we are claiming an exemption and your rights to complain and appeal the decision.

There may be a fee payable for processing this request. The rules for charging fees are laid down in regulations, and your information request will be considered against these regulations. If a fee is payable we will inform you of this and you must pay the fee before the information request can be processed further - the 20 day timetable is suspended until receipt of the fee. The fee regulations also set an upper limit to the amount of work that the Council can be required to undertake. If this limit is estimated to be exceeded by your request we can refuse to process the request. In this instance we will contact you to seek ways of reducing the amount of information required such that it falls within the limits, and can, therefore, be processed.

If any of the information requested concerns a third party they may be consulted prior to taking a decision whether to release the information to you or not. Again you will be notified in this instance.
We will aim to provide the information to you in the format that you have specified. If you require an alternative format please let me know. Where the format has not been specified the information will be provided in paper copy, normal font sizes, or by attachment to an e-mail, depending on the source of your request (hard copy request or by electronic means).
If you have any questions or concerns please contact me at the address at the bottom of this e-mail.

Yours sincerely,

Megan Bilton
Standards and Monitoring Administrative Assistant
Charnwood Borough Council
Southfields
Southfield Road
Loughborough
Leicestershire
LE11 2TN
e-mail [email address]
Tel 01509 634711

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Bilton Megan, Charnwood Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Thank you for your recent information request regarding details of
Compromise agreements, which the Council has considered.

However while the information requested regarding Compromise agreements
are held by the Council in the form of individual employee records, it is
not held in a manner which enables the information you requested to be
collated easily. The time required to go through each individual employee
record, past and present, would exceed the appropriate limit for dealing
with requests as set out in section 12 of the Act and the Appropriate
Limit and Fees Regulations.

However, regarding those compromise agreements known about which were
drawn up by Charnwood's in house legal team, none removed the employees
right to approach the council in future with Data Protection or Freedom of
Information requests.

You may re-use this information free of charge in any format or medium.
You must re-use it accurately and not in a misleading context. The
material must be acknowledged as Charnwood Borough Council copyright
unless the copyright is held by a third party and you must give the title
of the source document/publication. Where the copyright is held by a
third party you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders
concerned.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact me at the address at
the bottom of this e-mail. I have outlined our Freedom of Information
Complaints Procedure below should you need to make use of it.

Yours sincerely,

Megan Bilton
Standards and Monitoring Administrative Assistant
[1][email address]

Charnwood Borough Council Freedom of Information complaints procedure

Informal Complaints Procedure
Charnwood takes its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
very seriously. If you are dissatisfied with the way in which your request
has been handled I will do everything I can to resolve your complaint on
an informal basis within 15 working days. Please initially contact me,
therefore, at the contact e-mail given above.
If you are then still unsatisfied with the response that you have been
given the formal complaints procedure, outlined below, should be followed.

Formal Complaints Procedure
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the informal complaints
process you should make a formal complaint.
Put your formal complaint in writing, providing any supporting evidence,
to the Standards and Monitoring Support Officer at the address noted
below. The Standards and Monitoring Support Officer will investigate and
respond to your complaint within 20 working days.
If the Standards and Monitoring Support Officer dealt with your initial
request for information your complaint will automatically be referred to
the Head of Performance and Audit and / or the Director of Governance and
Procurement for independent consideration. In this case your complaint
will also receive a response within 20 working days.

Standards and Monitoring Support Officer
Charnwood Borough Council
Southfield Road
Loughborough
Leicestershire
LE11 2TU
Telephone: 01509 634785
Fax: 01509 263791
E-mail: [Charnwood Borough Council request email]

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Dear Megan,

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 144 (one hundred and forty four) full and detailed
responses. These councils did not have any difficulty in responding positively
to what they must have regarded as a reasonable request.

I am currently involved in research in this area and in order to
make the task somewhat more manageable, and to reflect your figures as accurately as possible, can I make the following
changes?

Please can you exclude 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. COT3 agreements (where tribunal proceedings may or may not have
been initiated)

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.

Given that a total of 144 councils have not found any difficulty, I
imagine that they may be taking a different approach to searching
for 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. Several years have elapsed since the introduction of the FOI Act, and I don't believe 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

Dear Megan,

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

Bilton Megan, Charnwood Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Thank you for your email.

As you are aware, I responded to your initial FOI request (our reference 1136) by email yesterday at 10.14am, therefore fulfilling the Council's duty under the Freedom of Information Act in respect of that request.
Having received your response to my email, I have queried the Council's position in respect of your revised request with the Information Commissioners Office and have been advised by them that this constitutes a new request. We therefore are required to respond to this new request in 20 working days and by the 1st March 2011 at the latest. Your new request has the reference number of 1178. As I'm sure you can appreciate, we now have to go back to the relevant services within the Council to obtain the information requested and we will provide a response to you as soon as possible.

Kind regards

Megan

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Dear Megan,

Apologies for the misunderstanding. I 'believed' what the computer was telling me, which I shouldn't have done without checking. Apologies for this. Please ignore the message sent in error.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding the revised request,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Dear Charnwood Borough Council,

I'd appreciate a response to the email sent on 1st February 2011. To update you, 223 (two hundred and twenty three) local authorities have responded positively and in full to this request,

many thanks in advance,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Mail Delivery System,

This message was created automatically by mail delivery software.

A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its
recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:

[Charnwood Borough Council request email]
SMTP error from remote mail server after pipelined DATA:
host mail1.charnwood.gov.uk [82.3.53.155]: 554 One or more of the sender or recipients in your email are invalid and not accepted.

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Dear Bilton Megan,

I'd appreciate a response to the email sent on 1st February 2011.
To update you, 223 (two hundred and twenty three) local authorities
have responded positively and in full to this request,

many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Mail Delivery System,

This message was created automatically by mail delivery software.

A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its
recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:

[email address]
SMTP error from remote mail server after pipelined DATA:
host mail1.charnwood.gov.uk [82.3.53.155]: 554 One or more of the sender or recipients in your email are invalid and not accepted.

show quoted sections

Bilton Megan, Charnwood Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Following the above information request I am pleased to provide the
following information:
Total number of compromise agreements signed:
2005 - 1
2006 - 0
2007 - 0
2008 - 0
2009 - 3
2010 - 1

No compromise agreements were drawn up by Charnwood's in house legal team,
that removed the employees right to approach the council in future with
Data Protection or Freedom of Information requests.

You may re-use this information free of charge in any format or medium.
You must re-use it accurately and not in a misleading context. The
material must be acknowledged as Charnwood Borough Council copyright
unless the copyright is held by a third party and you must give the title
of the source document/publication. Where the copyright is held by a
third party you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders
concerned.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact me at the address at
the bottom of this e-mail. I have outlined our Freedom of Information
Complaints Procedure below should you need to make use of it.

Yours sincerely,

Megan Bilton

Standards and Monitoring Administrative Assistant

[1][email address]

Charnwood Borough Council Freedom of Information complaints procedure

Informal Complaints Procedure

Charnwood takes its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
very seriously. If you are dissatisfied with the way in which your request
has been handled I will do everything I can to resolve your complaint on
an informal basis within 15 working days. Please initially contact me,
therefore, at the contact e-mail given above.

If you are then still unsatisfied with the response that you have been
given the formal complaints procedure, outlined below, should be followed.

Formal Complaints Procedure

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the informal complaints
process you should make a formal complaint.

Put your formal complaint in writing, providing any supporting evidence,
to the Standards and Monitoring Support Officer at the address noted
below. The Standards and Monitoring Support Officer will investigate and
respond to your complaint within 20 working days.

If the Standards and Monitoring Support Officer dealt with your initial
request for information your complaint will automatically be referred to
the Head of Performance and Audit and / or the Director of Governance and
Procurement for independent consideration. In this case your complaint
will also receive a response within 20 working days.

Standards and Monitoring Support Officer
Charnwood Borough Council
Southfield Road
Loughborough
Leicestershire
LE11 2TU
Telephone: 01509 634785
Fax: 01509 263791
E-mail: [2][Charnwood Borough Council request email]

show quoted sections

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Charnwood Borough Council were one of the slower respondents of the 345 councils asked, taking 39 working days (19 days over the statutory period) 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