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

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www.wirralinittogether.wordpress.com

Face of a man who is covering his eyes uid 1460818

“Let’s close our eyes 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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Workplace trouble? A phrase bank for those lost for words

This site is moving to a new web address.  If you’re a follower, please browse to the new site and register again to continue to receive updates or email notifications.  The old ones will cease to work in around a month’s time, when the old blog is taken down.

All the old content has been moved across and nothing else has changed.

Thanks for your time, and for following and I’ll see you there soon:

www.wirralinittogether.wordpress.com

On my website I’ve recently added a “Workplace Trouble” link.  This describes some of my background and goes on to give links to the support provided on this blog.  The support provided here is a reaction to the threatening, depressing and extremely dysfunctional condition of many of our workplaces, both in the public and private sector.  Despite hollow words of reassurance from employers, local and central government and the Chartered Institute for Professional Development (professional body of HR people) this has intensified since the downturn in the economy, and many employees are suffering and off work through ill health or unfair suspension.

I’m now offering to assist people who may have lodged a grievance, are considering whistleblowing, or are being bullied, harassed, intimidated, victimised or otherwise discriminated against.  With new moves towards openness and transparency, and a growing awareness of the protection that exists for whistleblowers, many feel confident in speaking up – because they couldn’t continue to witness abuse / malpractice and didn’t want to be yet another bystander.  I can’t get involved with the tactics or directly contact and support employees in their disputes, but I am providing phrases and passages of text for you to pick up and use.  These are designed to assist and to help employees wrest some control back from their workplace tormentors.

I’m planning for this help to become fully categorised and to be targeted on the regrettable situations that develop when you raise your head above the parapet and become “the person to be eliminated at all costs”.

Check back here, as I’ll soon be providing help for the following potential scenario.  This may develop, ironically, when you openly place your trust in managers to provide you with assistance and support:

  • You are involved in a dispute and have lodged a grievance.  Behind the scenes, your employer, rather than assisting or supporting, looks for “dirt” on you by questioning your work status or professional ability.  An ambitious colleague is called upon to meet with managers.  Here, they will aim to gather negative information from the ambitious employee about your competence in the role – which can then be used against you in a future disciplinary hearing.  At an early stage, any hearing will not yet be called for or justified, but will eventually be required when a number of “charges” have been ”fleshed out”.  These can be manufactured during an “investigation” – the main purpose of which will be to trawl for evidence to build a case against you.  There may also be a carrot dangled and a reward offered to participating colleagues

For now, you may have followed a link from the website, or from Twitter, and landed here, looking for help.  Thanks for your interest and for dropping by.  Please feel free to copy and paste, amend and use any of the following bullet points in your ongoing dispute correspondence.  There is much more detail here.   To start with, here are some generic and broad-ranging phrases which may prove useful:

  • If staff / customers / the public perceive that not everyone is treated equally, that some get preferential treatment, and that people who break the rules are allowed to get away with it, or are even rewarded, respect for the employer will be constantly eroded and its reputation undermined
  • Through the employer’s lack of recognition and failure to act, I have been made to feel undervalued and worthless
  • It is deeply worrying and concerning to learn that the correct practices, clearly outlined in our policies and procedures were not followed, and almost certainly ignored.  It is right that accountability should be forthcoming
  • In anybody’s eyes, this conduct amounted to wholly unacceptable behaviour
  • These practices paint a disturbing picture of a bungling, dysfunctional and incompetent employer
  • Action is required forthwith, to ensure that committed and dedicated employees are protected now and in the future
  • The independent investigation identified serious concerns, systemic failings and unacceptable behaviour – by those charged with a responsibility to act fairly, professionally and with dignity.  These issues now need to be addressed as a matter of priority
  • These disturbing findings need to be addressed openly and in full view, leading to accountability for those involved.  This is required in order that the public / customers / staff members can see what went so tragically wrong
  • It is now beyond question that there were deep, serious, yet foreseeable failings
  • The employer should now turn its energies to focussing on an immediate review and an overhaul of its whole approach in this area
  • Urgent action must be taken in the most fundamental areas, in order to address and resolve these issues
  • The employer should now be committed to ensuring that any lessons that can be learnt to prevent this happening in the future are swiftly acted upon and the appropriate measures put in place

These are a quick taster and I hope you find them useful.  They can be chosen and slotted into your correspondence with the employer.  Words and knowledge are power.  There will be more to follow soon which go into much greater detail and are targetted at particular workplace dispute scenarios.


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