#FoI request ~ Discovery of Wirral Council’s failure to record compromise agreements

28 2 13 - blanket over head

“Let’s hide away everyone.  Because then….

….it’s not really happening”

Total numbers for Compromise Agreements (full & final settlements for departing employees)

I lodged a previous request on this subject back in January 2011.  This was one of 345 separate requests made to English councils at the time.  Wirral trailed in 345th…. the very last council to respond, taking 216 working days to provide the following:

2006: 2
2007: 1
2008: 3
2009: 2
2010: 4

The FoI / DP gagging clause had never been used.

I thought, given the Chief Internal Auditor’s recent finding of high priority fundamental risks in this area, and a failure to scrutinise and record anything, not only was I left scratching my head on how they’d provided figures for years 2006 to 2010, but the time had come to try and draw back the veil that’s been cynically pulled across, shine a spotlight into the gloom, and update the public on how many compromise agreements were issued throughout 2011 – a year of great turbulence for the Council.

Compromise agreements are important and sombre legal documents, and often contain “gagging clauses” in order to keep the employee and the issuing body quiet.  They rule out future legal recourse and are associated with the handing over of large sums of public money, aimed at pacifying complainants, whistleblowers (who can’t in law actually be gagged) or those who have been subject to disciplinary allegations or investigations.  In other words ~ they are the lynchpin to an extremely touchy and sensitive area.

Sharp-eyed readers may have spotted in the above report that David Garry, Chief internal auditor, has failed to highlight the subject of  ‘compromise agreements’ in the introduction to the report, whilst making room for and headlining more mundane subjects such as “the overdue audit of Bidston Village Primary School”.

In her report, independent investigator Anna Klonowski has already headlined that such dysfunctional, secretive behaviour, followed by a peculiar brand of selective reporting is all in a day’s work for Wirral Council, ending her 249 pages with, “If positive and constructive change is to occur a clear articulation of ‘this is how we do business in Wirral’ needs to be developed and modelled every day by those in leadership positions throughout the tiers of management.  This will need to be supported by the development of an ability to constructively challenge those who do not adhere to these behaviours.” *waves at Mr Garry*

So, on it goes despite Klonowski.  The habitual kneejerk lurch towards the dysfunctional…. continuing ‘as abnormal’.  The “Wirral Way” of doing things never bodes well for anyone banking on integrity breaking out, or ideals such as openness, transparency, and the free and unhindered flow of information.

Maybe it’s just too early to usher in normality.  And with no accountability in sight, maybe normality is a bridge too far?

Here is the new FoI request, which was lodged today:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/total_annual_figures_for_comprom_347

Please check back for updates.

UPDATE   9th October 2012

Appended to the above FoI request:

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

In relation to the above request, please also supply the figures
for THIS calendar year, 2012, to date. As follows:

Following on from the 2011 END DATE of the previous request….the
annual figures for the total number of current employees or
ex-employees of Wirral 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).

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

UPDATE    30th October 2012

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

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 ‘Total Annual Figures
for Compromise Agreements, etc.’.

You have failed to respond to this query within the statutory 20
working days allowed. Please ask a senior officer to carry out an
internal review and also provide the person’s name, role and
contact details including phone number. Please also provide a
receipt for my request for review.

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

UPDATE   28th November 2012

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

It is now over 20 working days since I requested an internal
review.

As you are again in breach of the Freedom of Information Act, I
will now turn to the Information Commissioner and lodge an appeal /
complaint,

Yours faithfully,

Paul Cardin

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About Wirral In It Together

Campaigner for open government. Wants senior public servants to be honest and courageous. It IS possible!
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5 Responses to #FoI request ~ Discovery of Wirral Council’s failure to record compromise agreements

  1. john hardaker says:

    Paul I see you are keeping up the good work in trying to obtain this information & it seem that the “Legal” team are still refusing to divulge the information which by law has to be kept for at least 7 years & I would respectfully suggest that you pass on to HM Revenue & Customs details of Wirral Councils refusal to pass on the information to you whereas over 300 councils have given the information freely in accordance with a legitimate FOI requests. What are WBC trying to hide????. Their legal department think they are above the law & we both know they are not, but they think the request might just go away, no chance with you at the helm. This is our money they are dealing with & perhaps Private Eye may be interested this rotten borough yet again, food for thought Mr Surjit Tour

    • It’s a funny one this John. They HAVE actually provided the info for years 2006 to 2010, although it took the best part of a year. How they managed this if there was no recording process for compromise agreements is beyond me. So I’m now asking them for 2011’s figures to bring the public record up to date. They haven’t refused this yet because they haven’t had a chance. But again, I assume because they will not have been recording them, it’s anybody’s guess as to how long it may take to get the info.

      If they fail to respond / fail to do an internal review / or breach the FoI Act again, I’ll go to the Information Commissioner and appeal there. It’s just a painfully slow process and very cynical of the council to put us through this – especially people like you and me who try to “engage in the democratic process”.

      • john hardaker says:

        Hi it would appear that I got hold of the wrong of the stick slightly but that’s not difficult with Wirral Council especially with the going’s on in recent time where they have been handing out compromise agreements & giant payout to senior staff who have perhaps not done their jobs properly or who have taken the money & run before they have been sacked.My only hope is that with the current senior staff who are being investigated get their just deserts & the “officers” who have taken Yacht club memberships,days at the races,expensive football tickets & £2000.00 golfing holidays allegedly get their just deserts as well Public servants should do exactly what it says on the label & not have their own private “gentlemen’s club” for their own benefit in Brighton Street..
        I will follow your requests with avid interest as well as Wirral leaks & John Brace’s blog until the whole truth is exposed & not as in the past brushed under the very large carpet in the town hall, it is a pity there are not more people like you mate,cheers

  2. Pingback: Wirral’s manipulation of meeting minutes. Has the Klonowski Report been buried over Christmas? « #FoILed again?

  3. l8in says:

    Reblogged this on L8in.

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