Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

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

Please supply totals for the following:

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

Internet - Customer Relations, Cheltenham Borough Council

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your email enquiry. Your request for information has been
logged as FOI 1451 and you will receive a response within 20 working
days.

Yours sincerely

Emily Adams
Customer Relations and Research Officer
Room 9, Ground Floor
Municipal Offices
Cheltenham Borough Council
Tel 01242 774931
E-mail [email address]

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Adams, Emily, Cheltenham Borough Council

Dear Paul,

The information that the Council holds in relation to your freedom of
information request ref 1451 is below:

The Council do not hold any information on it's systems on
compromise agreements so are unable to disclose the information

Please note: If you are dissatisfied with the Council's response you
have a right of appeal. In the first instance please forward your appeal
to Karen Watson, Customer Relations and Research Manager, Cheltenham
Borough Council, Municipal Offices, Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1PP.

Your appeal will be considered and a response sent to you within 10
working days.

If you are still not happy with this decision you have a further right
of appeal to the Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely

Emily Adams
Customer Relations and Research Officer
Room 9, Ground Floor
Municipal Offices
Cheltenham Borough Council
Tel 01242 774931
E-mail [email address]

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Dear Emily,

Many thanks for your response to my recent query.

Your answer is a little sparse and I was hoping you would have at least explained the processes you've gone through to arrive at this conclusion.

All I have at the moment is one confusing sentence, which does not do the query any justice at all.

What processes have you been through?
Has Cheltenham Borough Council ever drawn up any compromise agreements?
Have any of your employees (or ex-employees) in the last 6 years been signatories to compromise agreements?
If so, what are the annual totals?

In addition, your statement appears to contradict itself - you are "unable to disclose the information" (implying you have some) - which you "do not hold"??

To put this request into a wider context, 118 English councils have responded quickly and in full to the same request. Some of these have clearly stated that they have never entered into a compromise agreement.

If this is the case, please can you state it?

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Cheltenham Borough Council

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your email. I have gone back to our human resources
department who provided the original information and will send you their
response as soon as I receive it.

Many thanks
Emily

Emily Adams
Customer Relations and Research Officer
Room 9, Ground Floor
Municipal Offices
Cheltenham Borough Council
Tel 01242 774931
E-mail [email address]

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Dear Cheltenham Borough Council,

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 faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Cheltenham Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin

Thank you for your emails of 28 January and 2 February respectively.

Regarding the comments you make in the email of 28 January, I am sorry
if the reply was confusing, it was not intended to be. What we probably
should have said was that, because of the sensitive and confidential
nature of compromise agreements, we do not keep written or computer
records of who has signed such agreements. This makes it a little
difficult to give you accurate figures particularly as your first email
wanted information relating back to 'the inception of Cheltenham Borough
Council'

However, in your most recent email, you have refined the criteria down
to the last six years and also excluded certain categories which helps
us.

These are our figures, which we believe to be accurate:

2008 - 1
2010 - 1

Yours sincerely

Emily Adams
Customer Relations and Research Officer
Room 9, Ground Floor
Municipal Offices
Cheltenham Borough Council
Tel 01242 774931
E-mail [email address]

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Dear Cheltenham Borough Council,

Many thanks for the time you have devoted to this request. It is really appreciated.

Please could you address the second part of my request i.e. has the
council ever used gagging clauses preventing the signatory of a
compromise agreement from exercising their statutory rights under
FOI or DPA legislation?

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Cheltenham Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Cardin

Please find attached the wording from our compromise agreement relating
to the terms. We do not include anything about FOI or DPA.

I hope this gives you all the information that you require.

Yours sincerely

Emily Adams
Customer Relations and Research Officer
Room 9, Ground Floor
Municipal Offices
Cheltenham Borough Council
Tel 01242 774931
E-mail [email address]

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Cheltenham Borough Council were one of the slower respondents of the 345 councils asked, taking 23 working 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