With Compromise Agreements "not being recorded or reported", HOW Were Figures Provided?

The request was partially successful.

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please follow this link to the council's website:

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents...

Here, you will find details of a September 2012 document written by then Chief Internal Auditor David Garry.

Within it, in the table at Appendix One, Mr Garry highlights the subject of "compromise agreements", explaining, quite worryingly, how these sensitive documents were not being recorded correctly or reported publicly, and how he discovered...

"...a high priority fundamental risk."

In light of the difficulty caused by this, please explain how you managed to respond properly with 'accurate' figures for the following two historical requests:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

Currently, given that both requests took a combined total of 15 months to respond to, I have made the working assumption that you cannot have reached an accurate figure for compromise agreements drawn up in dispute circumstances for either of the above requests.

I would now like to suggest that you query your Accounts Department please, and look for suspiciously large public money payments that have been made to persons departing in controversial circumstances.

In the case of persons paid more than £50,000 per annum, you are required by Audit Commission rules to provide the amount of the pay off, and their job position. In the case of persons paid more than £100,000 you are required to provide the amount of the pay off, their name and job position. Please provide these extra details to me.

Once you have the required details, you can then collate the figures, compare them with the current total of 24 (reported between years 2006 thru 2012), add the extra cases to this total and provide the updated accurate figure to me.

I look forward to your response,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

There was an unfortunate typo in the last message. With reference to the Audit Commission's revised rules of March 2010, the upper limit of salary for the second example should read £150,000 and not "£100,000",

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Good Afternoon,

With regards to your email below, please see attachment as our reply.

Kind Regards

Jane Corrin

Information Manager

 

 

 

 

show quoted sections

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Many thanks for your very quick response. Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'With Compromise Agreements "not being recorded or reported", HOW Were Figures Provided?'.

I believe your response has attempted to engage the "vexatious complaint" rule incorrectly.

My request is founded on the assumption that your organisation is struggling due to a certain degree of incompetence. I can't know the true extent of this, but there are plenty of external indicators:

o Wirral Council was recently targeted by the ICO for poor 'timeliness' in its FoI responses. It was the only UK council to be covered by this 3 month monitoring period

o It was the second time Wirral Council had been through this FoI monitoring process, suggesting to the public that lessons had not been learned the first time around

o The Information Commissioner mentioned his frustration with Wirral Council and its poor name as regards FoI when questioned before a parliamentary committee recently

o The link I sent to you (created by the council itself) highlights a degree of sloppiness in the area of compromise agreements, and a full and open admission by the council's former Chief Internal Auditor David Garry to the creation of "a high priority fundamental risk" in this area

There are many more indicators to show that the wider organisation has been experiencing serious high level difficulties for an extended period e.g. several external investigations, numerous suspensions and an LGA Improvement Board brought in to try and "steady the ship".

My request is therefore not couched in any accusation of dishonesty or lack of integrity. It cannot be. It flows from my perception of your incompetence, your ongoing failure and the creation of risk, admitted to by your own Chief Internal Auditor.

I would hope that you will take onboard this explanation of my own honest purpose in these matters. My intentions are good.

My research into compromise agreements, which in your previous "vexatious request" response, you implied was "obsessive", was used as the basis for the following front page headline story in the Daily Telegraph newspaper:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9967901/...

There is much of value for data and information people to absorb and learn here, including links to show that my research was courteous, yet persistent over a long period of time. This eventually paid off with some valuable publicity and a raised national public awareness of the damaging effects of local authority secrecy and the unfortunate impulse to gag, rather than adopt an open and transparent culture.

There is also a reference to the manner in which a neighbouring local authority attempted to ban me from making FoI and DP requests - this is ultra vires because in the opinion of privacy lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC nobody can remove an individual's statutory rights with regard to future requests.

Please aim to deal with my internal review as soon as possible. I appreciate that your resources are limited, but would appreciate a response within the timescale allowed by the FoI Act.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/wi...

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

So it isn't hidden from initial open view by default to the casual observer, here is the relevant bulk of the council's "vexatious request" response, reproduced below:

"This request has been refused and this notice constitutes a refusal notice for the purposes of s17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The Council considers the request vexatious and therefore it is refused under s14 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The tone and substance of the request means that it implicitly accuses Council officers involved in supplying a reply to your previous requests of bad faith and lying. The context of your request has been taken into account in reaching this decision. This decision has been reached having particular regard to your phrase “In light of the difficulty caused by this, please explain how you managed to respond properly with 'accurate' figures for the following two historical requests”. That request for an explanation is not itself a request for information but contributes to the vexatious tenor of your request.

You go on to expressly suggest that the Council raise questions with its Accounts Department and look for “suspiciously large public money payments that have been made to persons departing in controversial circumstances.” That again adopts a tone that is considered by the Council to be one that means the requests that you make are designed to cause annoyance and have the effect of harassing officers, and are manifestly unreasonable."

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

I should also add that when I surveyed a total of 345 English councils in 2011 to ascertain the totals for compromise agreements, I asked the majority of them to query their Accounts Departments for suspiciously large sums that may have been paid across, in the same way I did with THIS request.

At the time, Wirral Council did not attempt to label that 2011 request as "vexatious", neither did the other 344 councils who were approached.

I am of the opinion that Wirral Council's general incompetence, the extent of which cannot be accurately gauged, is causing uncalled for reactions, one of which is this recent tendency to label some of my requests as "vexatious".

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Good Afternoon,

Please see attached document as Wirral Council’s response to your request
for an Internal Review.

Kind Regards

Jane Corrin

Information Manager

Transformation and Resources

Wirral Council

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.   You are free
to use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial research you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may
involve licensing and the application of a charge.

   

 

 

show quoted sections

john hardaker left an annotation ()

Dear Paul, what are they trying to hide behind the so called cloak of vexation, it would appear a whole lot of ratepayers funds which have been squandered in a profligate way to hide the councils shortcomings. In all my 67 years of business I have been questioned by HMRC officers council officials Health & Safety officers all who have the power to extract truthful answers with dire results with the threat of fines or even imprisonment, needless to say I nor my fellow directors have felt the long arm of the law yet council officials at wirral council think they are a law unto themselves in hiding behind clauses members of the business sector could be locked up for.
Can I suggest you put this case to Mr pickles who is supposed to govern the way councils are run as between the councils legal eagles & the ICO you are beating your head against a brick wall. Perhaps if it came from on high this matter could be brought into the public domain where it rightly belongs as it is our money they are spending & I am right behind you in getting to the truth,the whole truth & nothing but the truth,regards john hardaker

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Thanks for your comment and support John.
This will be appealed to the ICO.

To summarise the current position with what's been labelled a "vexatious" request:

Wirral Council are saying, "You're accusing us of lying".

On the contrary, I'm insisting, "No, you're incompetent. And I have the evidence."

nigel hobro left an annotation ()

the commentary on the section 14 of the Act re vexatious requests

Section 14: Vexatious or repeated requests

59.Subsection (1) states that an authority is not obliged to comply with vexatious requests. This is not intended to include otherwise valid requests in which the applicant happens to take an opportunity to vent his frustration.

60.Subsection (2) states that an authority does not have to comply with repeated or substantially similar requests from the same person other than at reasonable intervals.

This is from statute so Pauls' request is valid as it is serious and if he happens to "vent his frustration" that does not justify a refusal!

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

It looks like this one slipped through the net and I forgot to appeal it to the ICO. Oh, no !

I've lost many months and with the ICO backlog, it may be well into next year before they eventually get round to looking at it.

Oh well. I've gotten used to waiting by now...

It will be appealed to the ICO this week.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Now appealed to ICO.
Will update next year, maybe the year after.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

Reminder sent to the ICO today, eight months later...

From: Paul C
Sent: 16 June 2014 11:59
To: 'casework@ico.org.uk'
Subject: RE: ICO Case FS50516384[Ref. FS50516384]

Dear Mr Perry,

I’m following up this case. It’s now way over a year since I first placed the FoI request.
As far as your input / progress goes, it’s 8 months since I appealed this to the ICO,

Please advise,

Regards,

Paul Cardin

This was the last time I heard from the ICO on this(four months ago):

From: casework@ico.org.uk [mailto:casework@ico.org.uk]
Sent: 25 February 2014 11:34
To: info@easyvirtualassistance.co.uk
Subject: ICO Case FS50516384[Ref. FS50516384]

PROTECT

25 February 2014

Case Reference Number FS50516384

Dear Mr Cardin

I have just been reviewing your cases and I can see that you submitted your position on this case on the 11 February. This has been placed on the case file, and I will review it in conjunction with the council's submission once received.

Yours sincerely

Daniel Perry
Case Officer - Complaints Resolution
Direct Dial: 01625 545 214

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Cardin,

 

I refer to your complaint to the Information Commissioner and to your
original request for information dated 17 April 2013. As part of the
complaint process the Council has decided to amend its response, which has
also been copied to the Information Commissioner. Your original request
was as follows:-

 

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please follow this link to the council's website:

[1]http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents...

Here, you will find details of a September 2012 document written by
then Chief Internal Auditor David Garry.

Within it, in the table at Appendix One, Mr Garry highlights the
subject of "compromise agreements", explaining, quite worryingly,
how these sensitive documents were not being recorded correctly or
reported publicly, and how he discovered...

"...a high priority fundamental risk."

In light of the difficulty caused by this, please explain how you
managed to respond properly with 'accurate' figures for the
following two historical requests:

[2]https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

[3]https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

Currently, given that both requests took a combined total of 15
months to respond to, I have made the working assumption that you
cannot have reached an accurate figure for compromise agreements
drawn up in dispute circumstances for either of the above requests.

I would now like to suggest that you query your Accounts Department
please, and look for suspiciously large public money payments that
have been made to persons departing in controversial circumstances.

In the case of persons paid more than £50,000 per annum, you are
required by Audit Commission rules to provide the amount of the pay
off, and their job position. In the case of persons paid more than
£100,000 you are required to provide the amount of the pay off,
their name and job position. Please provide these extra details to
me.

Once you have the required details, you can then collate the
figures, compare them with the current total of 24 (reported
between years 2006 thru 2012), add the extra cases to this total
and provide the updated accurate figure to me.

I look forward to your response,

Yours faithfully,

 

You have asked :-

 

“please explain how you
managed to respond properly with 'accurate' figures for the
following two historical requests:

[4]https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

[5]https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

 

I do not consider this to be a valid request for information held by the
Council at the date of your request, 17 April 2013. You are asking the
Council to provide an explanation rather than information held by the
Council. Later in your request you are also asking the Council to

“ you can then collate the
figures, compare them with the current total of 24 (reported
between years 2006 thru 2012), add the extra cases to this total
and provide the updated accurate figure to me.”

 

I also do not consider this to be a valid request for information. You are
asking the Council to carry out certain processes and then provide
information to you. Requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(FOIA) relate only to information held by the Council at the date of the
request. Section 1 (4) of FOIA provides

“The information—

(a)in respect of which the applicant is to be informed under subsection
(1)(a), or

(b)which is to be communicated under subsection (1)(b),

is the information in question held at the time when the request is
received..”

 

You requested the following:-

“In the case of persons paid more than £50,000 per annum, you are
required by Audit Commission rules to provide the amount of the pay
off, and their job position. In the case of persons paid more than
£100,000 you are required to provide the amount of the pay off,
their name and job position. Please provide these extra details to
me.”

You corrected the figure of £100,000 to £150,000 in your email of  19
April 2013.

Regulation 7 of the Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2011 requires
the Council to publish details in their Statement of Accounts of payments
made upon the termination of employment  in respect of senior employees
earning £50,000 or more and provide their job-title. For senior employees
earning £150,000 or more, the name of the office must also be provided.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has also provided
Supplementary Guidance “Openness and accountability in local pay: Guidance
under Section 40 of the Localism Act 2011.

The Council holds no information for senior employees  earning £150,000
per year. In the case of senior employees of the Council who received
severance payments prior to 2011, when Regulation 7 came into force, the
Council considers that this is exempt information under section 40 of
FOIA. in that you are asking for information which is personal data, in
respect of which you are not the data subject. I consider that the
disclosure of the requested information would contravene the first data
protection principle, that personal data shall be processed fairly and
lawfully, and shall not be processed unless at least one of the conditions
in Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act 1998 is met. I consider
disclosure of the requested information would have an unjustified adverse
effect on former senior employees of the Council, who would have had a
reasonable expectation upon the termination of their employment  prior to
2011 , that their personal data,  would remain confidential.

 

I do not consider that any of the conditions in Schedule 2 would be met
and particularly Condition 6 of Schedule 2 in that the processing would

be unwarranted by reason of prejudice to the rights and freedoms or
legitimate interests of the data subjects, namely former senior employees
.who left the employment of the Council more than three years ago, and
before the requirements of the 2011 Regulations came into force. I do not
consider that such processing would be necessary for the purposes of
legitimate interests pursued by yourself as a third party, being a member
of the public. I have considered whether there is a legitimate public
interest in disclosure and balanced this against the rights of the former
senior employees.

The Council holds information regarding the following payments to Senior
Employees made from 2011 up to the date of your request, namely 17 April
2013,which fall into the category of those employees earning £50,000 or
more per annum or pro rata, and who entered into compromise agreements
with the Council, relating to settlement of internal disputes/grievance
and/or termination of employment

2012-Assistant Director-Head of Wellbeing-£111,042.95

2012-The Head of Support Services-Finance Department- £109,496

2012-The Director of Law, HR and Asset Management- £146,416

2012-The Chief Internal Auditor-£46,584

 

I refer to the guidance issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office ,”
Dealing with vexatious complaints, (section 14) issued 14 May 2013. I
refer to paragraphs 107 -110 of the guidance. Having regard to the way
your request was framed, if  future requests for information are made in a
similar vein, these requests may be refused as vexatious”

Sent on behalf of Surjit Tour

Head of Legal and Member Services & Monitoring Officer

Wirral Council

Transformation and Resources

 [6][email address]

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You are free to
use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial research you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may
involve licensing and the application of a charge.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents...
2. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...
3. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...
4. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...
5. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...
6. mailto:[email address]

Dave rimmer left an annotation ()

Paul....me thinks Tours feathers have been ruffled. What makes me think that?... his final paragraph sounds like a threat to me. I assume you will not let him off the hook with comments like that.

john hardaker left an annotation ()

Methiks you have ruffled surjit tours feathers & he sounds vexed & no doubt when you make another request you will be carefull with your wording as usual. Anyway well done in getting to the truth in the matter.

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

I'm pleased to see victory arriving just recently on this one.

I now have three successful "put downs" on Wirral Council's empty claims to Section 14.

I'm afraid I don't have any figures for the amount of public money that's been deliberately squandered during this time of austerity for most.

Still, it's been a learning process for me, and despite Mr Tour's veiled threat (see denouement of his message above), I now know how to utilise the guidance that's out there to best effect - i.e. serving openness, transparency and the public interest - even if this data controller still apparently has MUCH to learn.

More details on all 3 of Wirral legal team's bogus / failed "vexatious" accusations against me here:

http://wirralinittogether.wordpress.com/...

James Griffiths left an annotation ()

Paul

Well done.

I would trust Nigel "Highbrow" Hobro, Martin Morton and your good self before anyone at Wirral.

Not just the obvious scum-bags (you know who I mean) but the people who do and will not stand up to the shenanigans, bullying etc.

Ooroo

James

Looking for an EU Authority?

You can request documents directly from EU Institutions at our sister site AskTheEU.org . Find out more .

AskTheEU.org