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

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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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In trouble at work? Hit your employer with some well-chosen words to keep them on task

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

The following passages may be useful for people in serious trouble in the workplace.  You may have blown the whistle on bad practice, or lodged a grievance, or been going through internal complaint processes, hoping that the next particular meeting will be the one to resolve it all.  But why is this NOT happening?  It’s about good will on both sides, but very often, you can be treated as a ‘troublemaker’ and have become ‘the problem’ and therefore, in the twisted logic of those who abuse their power, the one to be eliminated.

These passages consist of several carefully written phrases which you can lift and use immediately, or maybe adapt, chop and change for your own purposes.  Whatever you choose to do, they’re designed to provide inspiration and get the brain into gear.

There’s nothing worse than sitting in front of a blank piece of paper, or a blank screen, desperate for words.

Pick the ones that suit your situation, fill in the required words and names where there are dots.  This stuff really works and can petrify stupid managers – stupid? What am I saying?  Most of our managers are superbly intelligent, creative and inspirational beacons of light aren’t they?  AREN’T THEY????????

GOOD LUCK!

  1. The manager’s decision is wayward and misguided and comes as a complete ‘hammer blow’ to me. It amounts to an elaborate collection of far-fetched ideas that are subjective – and built upon nothing more than innuendo, guilt by implication and a number of falsehoods that are readily disproven.
  2. The decision to……………….. is self-serving, and is an undignified rearguard action, designed to give as little as possible.  It is nothing more than a diversionary tactic, intended to shift the spotlight away from the guilty parties and onto me – but with little or no justification.  Nothing within the wording bears scrutiny and much of it appears to have been plucked from the air.
  3. Your statement regarding……………… employs classic smear tactics, by trumping up charges to create the illusion of wrongdoing on my part, before appearing to provide a so-called solution by threatening disciplinary action.  It is very quick to condemn, however there is a telling absence of hard evidence to support the employer’s position and nothing, save strings of empty words, to indicate any wrong behaviour or poor performance.
  4. My mental health has been damaged, but there is a noticeable reluctance to accept and acknowledge this within the decision – a decision which has been found completely wanting.  The conclusions reached are largely built upon imagined events and make many glaring errors or wrong assumptions.  The decision you have arrived at is deliberately selective, manipulative, omits several important areas and offends by threatening performance management or apportioning responsibility to me where there is no call for such redress.
  5. The weak basis for these findings is at odds with the facts, and is self-destructive and clearly seen to undermine the employer’s authority and standing.  The conclusions reached serve only to mask the genuine problems, and indicate a coarse attempt to distance management from personal culpability for their own failings.
  6. The management position is a world away from the commendable values listed within the employee’s handbook, and as a result, the decision represents an extraordinary failure which cannot be condoned in any respect whatsoever.
  7. The decision lapses into near silence on the proven management failings established by the investigation.  These failings are given an extremely low profile, as is the lack of redress for those whose conduct was found to have been wanting.  Yet by contrast, management have rounded on me, making inappropriate and misguided calls for punitive action.
  8. This approach deliberately bypasses the substance of the complaint, and is clearly aimed at sidestepping accountability, crushing me, and deterring others from following prescribed and approved processes in the future. Despite my best efforts to achieve fairness, this has been ignored, and the whole thrust of the decision paints a disturbing and negative picture.
  9. I hope that this appeal provides an opportunity for the presiding director to examine the reasoning behind such wayward findings, and to call them into question.
  10. The central focus is flawed, and is dominated throughout by a large number of irrelevant and shallow accusations.  These are weak and unsavoury, have little merit or substance, and have no grounding or justification in our rules and procedures.
  11. Having had little else to build a case on, management seem to have opted for a cynical and calculated tactic of diversion.  The clear inability to admit guilt whilst being found in possession of a weak case has forced them onto the defensive.  For these reasons, they have sought refuge in personalising the issues.
  12. To achieve their ends, they have chosen to ‘attack the messenger’ by heaping trivial and unfair criticism upon me.  This characterisation of me is factually inaccurate and completely uncalled for.  My purpose in following the internal procedures and sending detailed information was to help and not to hinder.  A reactionary response like this was not unexpected – but as it peppers the decision statement from start to finish, it is clearly the main thrust – and as such, is self-defeating and damaging to all concerned.
  13. The decision to attack me in this manner erodes respect, undermines the integrity of the formal process and trivialises our own internal policies and procedures.  These policies were not drawn up in order to personalise the issues or attack the individual, but to counter real misconduct where it occurs.
  14. I have complied with the Employer’s policies and procedures from day one.  However, my attempts to have the issues addressed in line with the same policies and procedures have been repeatedly thwarted – and I appear to have been branded a troublemaker.
  15. At the same time, managers have shown a clear reluctance to adhere to their own guidelines, which call for balance, and the utmost integrity and professionalism.  Managers have mishandled my complaint, have been far too anxious to rebut my concerns and have attempted to stifle me at every turn.
  16. They have gone to great lengths in an effort to avoid accountability for themselves and their colleagues, and have seized upon every opportunity to pass the blame onto me, which has had the effect of protecting the individuals now proven to be at fault.
  17. When the opportunity arrived, I looked to Mr …………………. to use his influence, but he looked the other way.  Instead of receiving a level-headed response, my complaint was greeted by a complete overreaction, built upon falsehoods and ugly threats.  I have now become the innocent target of a ‘blame culture’, which has resulted in my hopes being dashed, and my worst anxieties confirmed.
  18. I have always made clear my faith and belief in the process, whilst indicating to management my increasing concern that something very wrong was happening as the situation unfolded.  The ‘toxic’ management behaviour was eventually raised to a level which had negative repercussions on my health – a possibility which was clearly spelled out beforehand to management by our Occupational Health Unit in written correspondence.
  19. Although I have repeatedly drawn management’s attention to this and other correspondence, Mr ……………….’s decision fails to acknowledge its existence.   Management have chosen not to heed this ‘alarm call’, which made further potential damage to my health and wellbeing both foreseeable and avoidable.
  20. I have continually acted honestly, forthrightly and in a timely manner.  I have regularly sought to enter into a mature and productive dialogue with management, yet my attempts to secure this have been stifled by a completely bureaucratic and defensive mindset.
  21. The response has been characterised by stubborn resistance, and an inability to talk, recognise and deal with the issues in an objective and even-handed manner.  There has been a preference for diversion, secrecy, or the promotion of hidden subtexts, born of desperation, which bear absolutely no relation to the real issues.
  22. Managers have engaged in resorting to unwelcome and inappropriate sanctions in an effort to make me ‘toe the line’.  Many counter allegations have been raised as a method of bolstering the management case and deflecting attention from its fundamental weakness – the lack of evidence to support such a punitive approach.
  23. Managers’ response forms an out-and-out rebuttal of my complaint, and the language employed is immoderate, threatening, inexcusable and out of all proportion.  The decision itself is ill-advised, without substance, and the findings and recommendations reached are distorted, and as such have absolutely no part to play in gaining resolution.
  24. The decision demonstrates a conscious disregard for my health and wellbeing – by classing my periods of sickness absence (and the damage caused to my health) as exacerbating the situation.  Such a position is inflammatory and there appears to be no recognition or acceptance, let alone mention of ‘work-related stress’.
  25. There is a deep reluctance to recognise and accept the extent to which my mental health has suffered through work-related stress over a protracted period.  The threats of disciplinary action and performance management are an insensitive and disproportionate response.  They are built upon the slimmest of evidence – and are the exact opposite of what is needed to address and remedy the situation.
  26. The Director’s decision amounts to the final chapter of a calculated and systematic approach to consciously deflect the blame away from management and towards me.
  27. The decision is completely over the top and would fail any test of reasonableness.  It is yet another closing of ranks, amounts to a wall of jargon and complexity and is a determined attempt to dodge responsibility for inappropriate behaviour.
  28. It amounts also to an ongoing failure to acknowledge and heed the important findings reached during the external investigation.  The allegations I made were denied all along by management, but in the end held fast and were later vindicated.
  29. Our policies and procedures could not be clearer – but it seems that inappropriate behaviour, although prioritised and targeted within the policy, has been ignored and left to thrive.  The organisation’s reluctance to lay the blame squarely at the door of the offending individuals is a resounding failure and adds insult to injury.
  30. What began as a serious, but small-scale issue – grew into something far more serious.  It is now a situation which has been allowed to wreak havoc, damaging my health, threatening my continuing employment, my future prospects and my ability to provide for my family.  Given the ongoing failure to act decisively, my confidence in the employer reaching a dignified and appropriate outcome has been seriously diminished.
  31. If management and HR had adopted a fair-minded and open approach, and acted upon the issues early on, the process would never have reached such a difficult point.  Despite their assertions, I have never detected any particular groundswell of support coming in my direction – far from it.
  32. A supportive, objective, non-judgmental approach was absolutely vital on the part of management, but with this opportunity now gone, it has become clear that the approach has descended into the base reactions of an unreasonable employer, failing in its duty.  This fundamental weakness of will has caused great concern for me, and damaged my health and wellbeing to such an extent that it may now attract the involvement of my solicitors.
  33. It appears that bullying and harassment is still occurring, but has advanced to a very senior level, and the Director’s refusal to accept and acknowledge ‘work-related stress’ as a factor, despite a clear request to do so, stands in the way of any resolution.
  34. This official heavy handedness, given its origins, only succeeds in magnifying the threat.  Mr …………………’s decision statement, showing callous disregard, describes my sickness absence as exacerbating the situation.  Such an unhelpful attitude in a Director is striking and incongruous – and indicates the need for a very rapid about turn, and an ideological change to the management mindset.


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