12th July 2013
I’ve had a response today to a recent Freedom of Information request, lodged on 15th June 2013. This is a remarkably quick response time for this council. I’m also mightily relieved that despite the theme of the request – compromise agreements / gagging clauses / pay offs, I’m not being accused of being ‘obsessive’. They haven’t shut up shop and branded me (for the third time) as ‘making a vexatious request’.
That in itself is a little strange, as the original request followed very closely the pattern of previous requests that were branded ‘vexatious’.
Anyway, in addition to the payments made to David Green and David Taylor Smith, here are the amounts paid to another four recently departed members of staff:
Ian Brand, Head of Asset Management (£68,368)
Geoff Paterson, Head of IT Services (£72,166)
Jim Lester, Head of Cultural Services (£72,166)
Rob Beresford, Head of Regulation (£70,900)
That’s a total of £283,600 for the four. Or if we throw in David G and David TS, £455,494.99 for the six. The three ‘super directors’ who replaced these people are not looking such good value for money now are they? Particularly when you consider that the amount of public money shovelled into the yawning black hole labelled “Written Off” is now way, way over the £1 million mark.
The reply has a couple of interesting features:
“2. Please also confirm whether any of these officers received /
signed or are otherwise subject to any of the following:
o A clean bill of health in the form of a reference……”
The council’s response is not a YES / NO, which is what I was asking for. Instead, they’ve come back with…
The Council does not consider it is appropriate to disclose this information. This information is personal data, relating to the data subjects, and it is considered that the information requested is exempt information under Section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act. The Council considers 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. We consider disclosure of the requested information would have an unjustified adverse effect on the officers.
I didn’t actually ask for copies of these clean bills of health, and I don’t think confirming whether the six senior officers received a reference or not is strictly ‘personal data’.
And I don’t think saying, “Yes, they did get a reference” or, “No, they didn’t” and thereby making the news public would have an ‘unjustified adverse effect’ on them, the way they’re claiming. It’s a nothing question really – harmless – and done simply to supplement the main question about pay offs.
For now, I’ll presume they all will have had positive / neutral references. But I may go back to them and challenge their incompetent response, asking for clarification.
The other issue is that the response doesn’t specifically address whether the other five officers did or didn’t sign compromise agreements. But I won’t flog a dead horse. They’re just being a bit dilatory which, as we’re all aware, is standard practice for Wirral FoI responses.