Total Annual Figures for Compromise Agreements, etc.

Paul Cardin made this Freedom of Information request to Devon County 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 Devon County Council,

Please supply totals for the following:

As far as records go back, annual figures for the total number of current employees / ex-employees of Devon County
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 the body acting as Devon County 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

Freedom of Information Office - Mailbox, Devon County Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Information Request: 00928

I received your request on 4th January 2011 for information held by Devon
County Council about compromise agreements.

You are entitled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to be informed
whether or not the information you have requested is held by Devon County
Council and if so to be given access to that information within 20 working
days (subject to any exemptions).

You should expect to receive a response to your request by 1st February
2011.

Yours sincerely

Freedom of Information Team

Devon County Council
Information Governance
Strategic Intelligence
Office of the Chief Executive
Room L10
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter
EX2 4QD
Tel: 01392 38 4678
Disclaimer: [1]http://www.devon.gov.uk/email.shtml
Applicable to private messages: "Devon County Council accepts no legal
responsibility for the contents of this message. The views expressed do
not reflect those of Devon County Council"

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Freedom of Information Office - Mailbox, Devon County Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Information Request: 00928

Further to our email below, please could you clarify the following points
so that we may proceed with your request.

- Please define what is meant by 'resolving of dispute(s)' and 'internal
and external investigation(s)'.
- Please clarify whether you would like the total number of all Compromise
Agreements or only the certain types you have listed.
If just certain types, please be very specific as to what these are.
- It is worth noting that detailed information only goes back two years.
Prior to that we only keep numbers of Compromise Agreements.

Until we receive this clarification from you your request will be on
hold. You will be advised of a new deadline date on receipt of this
clarification.

Yours sincerely

Freedom of Information Team

Devon County Council
Information Governance
Strategic Intelligence
Office of the Chief Executive
Room L10
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter
EX2 4QD
Tel: 01392 38 4678
Disclaimer: [1]http://www.devon.gov.uk/email.shtml
Applicable to private messages: "Devon County Council accepts no legal
responsibility for the contents of this message. The views expressed do
not reflect those of Devon County Council"

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Dear Freedom of Information Office - Mailbox,

Thanks for your very quick response.

For the purposes of clarification, I am referring to Compromise Agreements offered to employees as a means of terminating the working relationship (Not COT3 agreements - which only come into play after tribunal proceedings have started).

I am not referring to redundancy situations.

I am referring to a dispute between employer and employee which has been settled through the use of such a compromise agreement. These compromise agreements often contain a positive reference for the employee to take with them, and relate to situations where a 'dismissal' as such has been avoided and is a product of one or more of the following:

An internal grievance
An internal or external investigation
An incident of whistleblowing

By an internal investigation, I mean an unofficial investigation taken on by a separate department of the council, usually related to a grievance or complaint. By an external investigation, I mean an official investigation (usually the next stage after an internal investigation) taken on by an independent party who should prove independence and no prior affiliation by declaring any interest before the outset of the investigation.

As stated, total figures for each year for all such compromise agreements (apart from purely redundancy situations) and a total figure for any use of gagging clauses (including redundancy situations) related to the employee forgoing their rights to ask FOI / DPA requests in the future would be all I need. There is no risk of breaching confidentiality or data privacy with this format.

I hope this explains the query a bit more fully, but please advise if you need any further explanation,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Freedom of Information Office - Mailbox, Devon County Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Information Request: 00286

Thank you for your clarification below. Please note that you should now
expect to receive a response to your request by 4th February 2011.

Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information Team

Devon County Council
Information Governance
Strategic Intelligence
Office of the Chief Executive
Room L10
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter
EX2 4QD
Tel: 01392 38 4678
Disclaimer: [1]http://www.devon.gov.uk/email.shtml
Applicable to private messages: "Devon County Council accepts no legal
responsibility for the contents of this message. The views expressed do
not reflect those of Devon County Council"

show quoted sections

Dear Freedom of Information Office - Mailbox,

Thanks for your request for clarification.

By dispute, I mean circumstances where the employer and employee have been in serious disagreement with each other (not redundancy or equal pay situations) and where the situation has resulted in the termination of the working contract and a compromise agreement being drawn up. Proceedings may have required internal and / or internal investigations to discover the facts. Tribunal proceedings will have been avoided as a result.

Please provide totals for only the circumstances quoted, and omit the following:

1. Any compromise (or COT3) agreements which have been drawn up regarding redundancy, equal pay and which may have occurred as a result of tribunal proceedings being instigated.

As stated in the initial query, I am not asking for detailed information, only total figures as far back as records are held, in the format of calendar years e.g. 2005 - 1; 2006 - 0; 2007 - 3; etc.

thank you in advance,

Paul Cardin

Freedom of Information Office - Mailbox, Devon County Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Information Request: 00928

Further to your information request, it is still not clear as to which
circumstances you refer to. Officers have raised the following points:

* You say you would like to know the number of Compromise Agreements
that have been used to settle 'disputes' and in a second email you
have defined 'dispute' as a 'serious disagreement' between employee
and employer.
* You say you are referring to disputes produced by one or more of
the following

An internal grievance
An internal or external investigation (which you have further
clarified by stipulating these would be a result of a complaint or
grievance)

An incident of whistleblowing

* None of this suggests that you are referring to cases of
misconduct, yet you have also said that you are referring to
Compromise Agreements that avoid a dismissal.

As a dismissal would not normally be an outcome of a dispute such as a
grievance, we will need a more specific request to understand exactly
which circumstances fall under what you are looking for.

I am sorry that we are having to ask for further clarification at this
stage, but we are unable to collate the figures for a response until we
are clear as to the exact information that you require. Please note that
until we receive clarification on this point, you request will be
considered on hold.

Your sincerely,

Freedom of Information Team

Devon County Council
Information Governance
Strategic Intelligence
Office of the Chief Executive
Room L10
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter
EX2 4QD
Tel: 01392 38 4678
Disclaimer: [1]http://www.devon.gov.uk/email.shtml
Applicable to private messages: "Devon County Council accepts no legal
responsibility for the contents of this message. The views expressed do
not reflect those of Devon County Council"

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Dear Freedom of Information Office - Mailbox,

Many thanks for your response. Please take the word 'dismissal' out of the equation. It's not as relevant as you are suggesting and appears to be causing you to become confused.

Please also exclude COT3 agreements and all compromise agreements drawn up in the following circumstances:

1. TUPE situations
2. Equal pay claims
3. Purely redundancy situations
4. Purely PILON (pay in lieu of notice) situations

With respect, your response is quite unique in seeming to apply an overly literate interpretation to these issues, to the point of 'splitting hairs'.

My intention, regardless of the surrounding circumstances, is made in the interests of research. It's done to hopefully isolate all those compromise agreements which have involved an 'incentive payment', made by the employer to secure both the employee's and the employer's consent to not approach the media and/or to not make legal approaches in the future - a full and final settlement, where any previous claims become compromised.

It may be worth your while putting a call in to your Legal and / or your Accounts Department where there should be a detailed record kept of all such payments - within a searchable data storage / retrieval system - this should provide total annual figures when correctly queried.

I remain hopeful that your response, unique amongst the hundreds of councils thus far queried, is the product of an overzealous attention to detail, rather than a stubborn attempt to muddy the water in the face of a reasonable public request.

The FOI Act has been with us for several years, and I'm hopeful that your council have had time to adapt and learn how to respond positively and accurately to your public. 144 councils to date have been only too pleased to provide quick, detailed and positive responses, giving annual calendar year figures that fully satisfy my purposes.

many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Freedom of Information Office - Mailbox, Devon County Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Thank you for your clarification below. We should now be able to proceed
with your request. You should now expect to receive a response from us by
4th March 2011.

Yours sincerely,

Vicky Moffat
Information Compliance Officer

Devon County Council
Information Governance
Strategic Intelligence
Office of the Chief Executive
Room L10
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter
EX2 4QD
Tel: 01392 38 4678
Disclaimer: [1]http://www.devon.gov.uk/email.shtml
Applicable to private messages: "Devon County Council accepts no legal
responsibility for the contents of this message. The views expressed do
not reflect those of Devon County Council"

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Dear Freedom of Information Office - Mailbox,

Many thanks. Please don't forget the second question in the original request i.e. Does the council aim to restrict, as part of their compromise agreements, the employee's statutory rights around FOI / DPA requests in the futute?

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Freedom of Information Office - Mailbox, Devon County Council

1 Attachment

Dear Paul Cardin

Information Request 00928

I am in receipt of your request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act regarding compromise agreements at Devon County Council.
Please find our response attached to this email.

I hope this information is of assistance to you.
Yours sincerely

Freedom of Information Office

Devon County Council

Strategic Intelligence
Room L10
County Hall

Exeter
EX2 4QD
Tel: 01392 384674

Email: [1][Devon County Council request email]

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Dear Freedom of Information Office - Mailbox,

Thank you for your response. I appreciate the time you have devoted to this request.

However, please respond 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 the body acting as Devon County 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."

many thanks in advance,

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cardin

Freedom of Information Office - Mailbox, Devon County Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

Information Request: 00928

Thank you for your email. I do apologise that this answer was omitted
from our previous response. I can however confirm that the answer is
'nil'.

Yours sincerely

Freedom of Information Team

Devon County Council
Information Governance
Strategic Intelligence
Office of the Chief Executive
Room L10
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter
EX2 4QD
Tel: 01392 38 4678
Disclaimer: [1]http://www.devon.gov.uk/email.shtml
Applicable to private messages: "Devon County Council accepts no legal
responsibility for the contents of this message. The views expressed do
not reflect those of Devon County Council"

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Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Devon County Council were one of the slowest respondents of the 345 councils asked, taking 47 working days (over twice 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