Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Burn-It-All-Down Brexit


Daniel Finkelstein hits the nail on the head with his column in The Times on Brexit. 

The Brexiteer rebels are now saying something they never said in the referendum. That Brexit could mean leaving without any trade deal, breaking the Good Friday agreement, failing to settle financially with our continental allies and departing without a transition arrangement. They claim only this is truly Brexit. And only this is what “17.4 million people” voted for.

Nonsense. Complete nonsense. But all right, if they really believe that the majority of voters support this burn-it-all-down Brexit, let’s put it to the test. Let’s have another referendum and ask the electorate. If they are so confident that this is the will of the people, surely the Brexiteers won’t mind.

The Fink is right you know - it's time to call a halt to this nonsense, face down the ideologues on the left and right of politics - and demand a People's Vote on the final terms of any Brexit Deal or No Deal.


Blame the Brexiteers for last night’s farce

By Daniel Finkelstein - The Times

Tory Leavers who once advocated pragmatic changes to our relationship with Europe have become reckless zealots


In the late 1960s, a group of young Frenchmen sat down to discuss current affairs. And as they talked, something strange happened. Initial mild support for General de Gaulle became much stronger, while opinions about American foreign aid turned from a little bit sceptical to downright hostile.

The conversation was one of the earliest studies of something called “group polarisation”, the tendency to become firmer and more extreme when discussing subjects with those of like mind.

There have been dozens of similar experiments since then, covering topics as diverse as feminism, the behaviour of judges, racial prejudice, even the willingness of burglars to take risks. Each shows the same tendency for group opinions to polarise. And in his 2009 book Going to Extremes Cass Sunstein collects them together.

If he were to publish a new edition, he would surely be tempted to include Brexit. Look at what has happened to the supporters of Brexit. Last night we learnt that people who once were quite pragmatic about the sort of relationship we should have with the European Union after leaving have become more doctrinaire. Only the hardest Brexit is now real Brexit. Nothing else will do. Any alternative is a betrayal.

These are people who once talked about how the EU was fine “when it was a common market”, or who said we might become members of the European Free Trade Association (Efta), or be like Norway. People who argued that we would arrange tariff-free trade with the EU. People who argued to remain in the customs union even after Brexit.

And now? They haven’t even noticed that they have shifted their position. Just as Sunstein’s theory predicted. They have spent so long knocking around with each other, egging each other on, setting each other purity tests, that they have drifted, drifted, drifted until we are in the ridiculous position where the prime minister negotiates to leave the EU and they turn it down.

Only chaos will do and they are willing to break their leader, break their government, break their party or even break Brexit as long as they don’t have to compromise. Forgetting, as they do, that they are being asked to compromise with positions they publicly advocated not that long ago.

Patience with this position has been hard to maintain, and with last night’s vote mine, at least, is now exhausted.

I have never believed that Brexit was wise or in the national interest. But I did accept that we had a free and fair referendum. So I felt that parliament, which offered that referendum, had a duty to implement the outcome. I have supported it in doing that duty

I endorsed triggering Article 50, even though I thought that the country was making an error. And I backed negotiations to gain as much freedom from EU institutions as was compatible with a close trading relationship, peace in Ireland and the unwinding of a deep legal entanglement.

To find myself cheering on a Brexit I think is foolish, while its advocates vote the other way, is an absurd position to be in. And there are many others in the same position. We have gone along with Brexit because we thought that it had a democratic mandate. But now? I’ve reached the end of the road.

Brexiteers like the feeling that they have been betrayed by the political establishment. Well, I’m sorry, but you have not been betrayed. Brexit meant Brexit. Leave meant Leave. A deal has been negotiated that would allow us to leave in two months’ time and it’s you, the Brexiteers, who defeated it. Brexit is there. It’s on the table. It’s ready for you to carry away. Don’t you dare accuse me of bad faith if you fail to pick it up.

It is we who have been betrayed. Those who faithfully and diligently tried to make Brexit happen smoothly and on time, even though we had our doubts. We’ve been left high and dry.

The Brexiteer rebels are now saying something they never said in the referendum. That Brexit could mean leaving without any trade deal, breaking the Good Friday agreement, failing to settle financially with our continental allies and departing without a transition arrangement. They claim only this is truly Brexit. And only this is what “17.4 million people” voted for.

Nonsense. Complete nonsense. But all right, if they really believe that the majority of voters support this burn-it-all-down Brexit, let’s put it to the test. Let’s have another referendum and ask the electorate. If they are so confident that this is the will of the people, surely the Brexiteers won’t mind.

Every day since the Brexit vote in 2016 I have resisted the idea of a second referendum. For parliament to be unable to implement the result of the vote it called is a ghastly failure. And all the arguments against a second referendum are as strong as ever — if a second, why not a third? And what will the question be?

But if the alternative is to be made to acquiesce in a no-deal Brexit then I’m prepared to wear this difficulty. I think this is quite a moderate response to being sorely tested.

I am more pessimistic than most people about avoiding no deal. Things look prohibitively difficult for the prime minister’s deal after it was defeated by 230 votes last night but no other arrangement seems to have much promise either. I still fear Jeremy Corbyn will not support a second referendum and until he does, Mrs May is right to try whatever she can and she should be supported in this until it becomes obvious something else can command a majority.

But for me, at least, last night was a watershed. Any viable alternative — Norway, a permanent customs union, a second referendum — needs now to be actively considered and I am certainly ready to support them.

One final thing. Leavers aren’t the only people who suffer from group polarisation. I know I am even more sceptical about Brexit now than I was two years ago. And there are many Remainers who have now persuaded themselves that the first referendum was invalid and that we can simply withdraw our Article 50 notification without further ado.

Of course we can’t. If parliament can’t deliver Brexit, it would have to go back to the people. But all I would say to the Brexiteers is that if parliament can’t deliver Brexit, it isn’t my fault. It’s yours.

daniel.finkelstein@thetimes.co.uk

Magic Grandpa (15/01/19)



I liked Morten Morland's cartoon in The Times which portrays Jeremy Corbyn coming to the rescue with his 'magic' touch and inane gobbledegook about a 'Job First' Brexit.

   

Corbyn is a Clown (13/01/19)

 

Mark Irvine
As a former full-time trade union official, Jeremy Corbyn is arguing (with a straight face) that people can get all the same benefits of trade union membership - without being a member of a trade union! 

What a complete tosser.

  

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Glasgow's 'Unfit For Purpose' WPBR



Here's my latest appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner which aims to get to the bottom of Glasgow's now infamous WPBR pay scheme and the role played by senior council officials.

Now the Council has thrown everything including the kitchen sink at this one and is arguing that releasing this information would 'prejudice the good conduct of public affairs'.  

I say this is nonsense, of course, since the events in question happened more than 12 years ago and can have no bearing on the ability of Glasgow City Council to conduct itself properly in 2019.

But read on and decide for yourself - and do let me know what you think of Glasgow's declared policy of becoming a 'world leader' for openness and transparency. 

  

 09 January 2019

Daren Fitzhenry 
Scottish Information Commissioner
Kinburn Castle
Doubledykes Road
St Andrews
Fife
KY16 9DS


Dear Mr Fitzhenry

Glasgow City Council (GCC) – FOISA Appeal


I would like to apply for an adjudication by the Scottish Information Commissioner over a FOISA Request I submitted to Glasgow City Council on 10 August 2018. The grounds of my application are set out below.

1) Glasgow City Council decided to introduce new 'equality proofed' pay arrangements towards the end of 2005 in response to a flood of equal pay claims from low paid, predominantly female  employees who were paid much less than male council workers in comparable male dominated jobs.

2) The Council decided to engage external consultants to work with its senior council officials to devise a completely new job evaluation system and pay scheme which became known as the WPBR (Workforce Pay and Benefits Review).

3) In doing so, the Council rejected the Scottish Joint Council job evaluation scheme (JES) which had previously been recommended for use in all 32 Scottish councils by COSLA (the employers' body) and the national trades unions (Unison, GMB and TGWU at the time). 

4) £250,000 of public money had already been spent on developing the SJC JES, yet for reasons known only to itself Glasgow City Council decided to reject the 'bespoke' JES scheme specifically created for Scottish local government - and set about reinventing the wheel with its own in-house WPBR pay scheme.

5) The WPBR was introduced in January 2007, at significant and additional public cost, and was immediately criticised as a sham because the new pay arrangements simply preserved all of the gender-based pay differentials as the old pay arrangements, i.e. traditional male jobs continued to be paid much more favourably than comparable female dominated jobs.

6) A legal battle in the Employment Tribunals ensued culminating in August 2017, in a landmark judgement at the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, which condemned the WPBR as 'unfit for purpose'. In December 2017 the Council tried to overturn this decision by seeking  leave to appeal the 'unfit for purpose' judgment in the UK Supreme Court, but Glasgow's appeal  was rejected in another (unanimous) judgement by the Court of Session.

7) In 2018 Glasgow City Council finally stopped 'defending the indefensible' by agreeing to scrap the WPBR and replace its in-house scheme with the Scottish Joint Council JES which had been previously rejected back in 2005-2007. 

8) Since 2005, Scotland's largest council has spent well over £3 million devising and defending an 'unfit for purpose' pay scheme and has also run up an enormous equal pay bill which will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds. Glasgow City Council currently faces 14,000 equal pay claims and number is increasing by the day.          

9) The 'handwritten notes' I have requested are clearly crucial to understanding exactly what went on with the WPBR back in 2005-2007, yet the Council's objection to releasing this  information is that disclosure would 'prejudice the good conduct of public affairs'.

10) In my view this is a bogus, hypocritical argument which is designed to protect senior officials in Glasgow from proper public scrutiny. Hundreds of millions of pounds of public money will be spent in clearing up this appalling mess, but the Council's defence comes down to the following argument which is made under Section 30 (b) (ii) of FOISA 2002.

"Some of the information consists of notes from meetings of the Council’s senior management team and is, in my opinion, exempt from disclosure on the basis that its release would prejudice substantially, or be likely to prejudice substantially, the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This is because releasing the information would undermine the effectiveness of decision making within the Council’s senior management team."

11) I reject the Council's assertion because the 'handwritten notes' relate to what was happening back in 2005 to 2007 and while they are enormously important historical documents their release  cannot reasonably have a detrimental effect on the Council's decision-making processes in 2019. 

12) Likewise the Council's arguments under Section 30 (c) of FOISA are equally ludicrous, in my view, since the conduct of public affairs can only be improved if the public understands what led Scotland's largest council to introduce an 'unfit for purpose' pay which has since proved to be an  enormously costly and unprecedented error of judgement . 

13) I note the Council has dropped its previous (and bogus) objection to the release of the handwritten notes information under Section 12 (1) of FOISA and I can confirm that I have no problem with 'personal information' being redacted so long as there are proper grounds for doing so under Section 38 (1) (b) of FOISA 2002.   

14) In summary, my view is that the Council's motivation for refusing to release this information stems from a desire to protect the interests of senior officials, past and present, whereas the far more important issue is effective oversight of public affairs which means empowering the public to understand what has been done in their name - with hundreds of millions of pounds of public money. 



I look forward to hearing from you in due course and if you require any further details or clarification at this stage, please contact me on 07947 795222 or by e-mail at markirvine@compuserve.com

Kind regards



Mark Irvine 

Enclosures x 4


1. ENCLOSURE 1 FINAL RESPONSE LETTER FROM GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL DATED 21 DECEMBER 2018. 

2. ENCLOSURE 2 - FOI REVIEW REQUEST LETTER to GCC DATED 11 SEPTEMBER DATED 11 SEPTEMBER 2018

3. ENCLOSURE 3 - INITIAL FOI RESPONSE FROM GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL DATED 07 SEPTEMBER 2018

4. ENCLOSURE 4 FOI REQUEST TO GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL DATED 10 AUGUST 2018

NB GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL FAILED TO RESPOND TO RESPOND TO MY FOI REVIEW REQUEST WITHIN THE TIME LIMITS LAID DOWN BY FOISA 2002 AND ONLY DID SO FOLLOWING AN ADJUDICATION FROM THE SCOTTISH INFORMATION COMMISSIONER 


ENCLOSURE 1


GCC's Final Response letter dated 21 December 2018

-----Original Message-----
From: FOI Reviews
To: markirvine@compuserve.com
Sent: Fri, Dec 21, 2018 3:26 pm
Subject: FOI Review - RQST6789912

Dear Mr Irvine 
On behalf of Carole Forrest, Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council, please find attached Glasgow City Council's response to your request for review dated 11 September 2018.
Regards
FOI Review Team
Glasgow City Council



Our Ref RQST6789912
21 December 2018
By email: markirvine@compuserve.com
Dear Mr Irvine
Glasgow City Council
City Chambers George Square Glasgow G2 1DU DX GW572
Hand Deliveries to: 40 John Street Glasgow G1 1JL
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REQUEST FOR REVIEW UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (SCOTLAND) ACT 2002 (THE “ACT”)

I refer to your email of 11 September 2018 requesting a review of the response by Glasgow City Council (the “Council”) to your request for information under the Act.

YOUR REQUEST
You submitted a request dated 10 August 2018 requesting that the following information be provided to you:
“Please provide me with a copy of the handwritten notes regarding the planning/implementation of WPBR from October 2005 to November 2006.”

THE DECISION
The Council emailed you on 7 September 2018 and provided you with a response to your request for information. The Council advised that it was unable to comply with your request as compliance would exceed the cost threshold allowed by section 12(1) of the Act and the fees regulations made under the Act (the limit is currently £600). The Council further advised that some of the information is exempt from release in terms of section 38(1)(b) of the Act as it would involve releasing personal information about third party individuals. The Council also explained that some of the information is exempt from release in terms of section 36(1) of the Act. In other words, the documentation consists of information in respect of which the Council could maintain a claim to confidentially of communications in legal proceedings.

YOUR REQUEST FOR REVIEW
On 11 September 2018 you emailed the Council requesting a formal review of the decision. Unfortunately the Council did not receive this email. You made an application for a decision to the Scottish Information Commissioner on 17 October 2018. Following this, the Council carried out an investigation as to why it did not receive your email and the reasons for this were provided to you in the email of 12 November 2018 from Dr Kenneth Meechan. As this matter has already been addressed, this review has only considered the questions raised in your email of 11 September 2018. For ease of reference, your full review request is set out in the Annex to this letter.

Please be advised that the Council is treating paragraph 3 of your correspondence as a new request for information and our response is detailed below under the heading ‘New Request’.

THE REVIEW DECISION
I have carried out a full and impartial review of the initial response provided to you. I can confirm that I partially uphold the Council’s initial decision.

Section 12(1)
The Council initially refused your request on the basis that compliance with the request would exceed the cost threshold allowed by section 12(1) of the Act and the fees regulations made under the Act. Following my investigation, I am of the view that although it would take a substantial amount of time and staff resource to comply with your request it is unlikely to exceed the cost threshold of £600 which equates to approximately 40 hours of staff time (capped at £15 per hour).

Section 38(1)(b)
However, I do agree with the Council’s initial assessment that some of the information contained within the notes is exempt in terms of section 38(1)(b) of the Act. The information contains personal details of individuals and disclosure of this information would breach the Data Protection Principles contained within Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation. These require us to process personal information in a lawful, fair and transparent manner. The individuals concerned would not expect their personal details to be released in response to an FOI request. Accordingly, it would be unfair to the individuals concerned for such information to be released into the public domain.

Section 36(1)
In addition, I agree that some of the information is exempt from release because of the exemption contained within section 36(1) of the Act. In other words, the material in question consists of information in respect of which the Council could maintain a claim to confidentiality of communications in legal proceedings.

While I have concluded that the exemption contained in section 36(1) applies in this case, the Council would still be obliged to release the information in response to your request unless the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information. In this case, I take the view that only a compelling public interest would be sufficient to justify departure from the principle that communications between a lawyer and their client should remain confidential. On balance, I am of the view that the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

I note that in your request for review, you have asked for clarification in relation to the type of legal advice contained within the notes. By way of advice and assistance, I can advise that the papers contain notes of meetings with both internal and external legal advisers.

Section 30(b)(ii)
On further inspection of the information, I am of the view that the Council should have advised you that the information is exempt from a request under section one of the Act because of the exemption contained in section 30(b)(ii) of the Act.

Some of the information consists of notes from meetings of the Council’s senior management team and is, in my opinion, exempt from disclosure on the basis that its release would prejudice substantially, or be likely to prejudice substantially, the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This is because releasing the information would undermine the effectiveness of decision making within the Council’s senior management team. 

The papers detail management’s planning approach to the development of Workforce Pay and Benefits Review system and other related matters. Such candid discussion would be inhibited if information of this type were to be routinely released, to the substantial prejudice to the quality of the decision-making process and, in consequence, to the free and frank exchange of views for purposes of deliberation.While I believe the exemption contained in section 30(b)(ii) applies in this case, the Council would still be obliged to release the information in response to your request unless the public interest in maintaining the exemptions outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information. The Council acknowledges the significant public interest in openness and transparency and therefore recognises that any request under section 1 of the Act is potentially in the public interest.

However, there is a significant public interest in the Council being able to assess critically all factors involved when making decisions of this type, and to reach the best possible decision. On occasions this can only be done on the basis of candid advice and a free exchange of views, of a sort which cannot take place if all information is disclosed into the public domain. In the circumstances I feel that the specific public interest in safeguarding these decision making processes outweighs the general public interest in openness and transparency.

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Section 30(c)
I am also of the view that some of the information is exempt in terms of section 30(c) of the Act as its release would otherwise prejudice substantially, or be likely to prejudice substantially, the effective conduct of public affairs.

As noted above, the papers contain information detailing the management and planning processes in relation to the development of the WPBR system, including information provided by external consultants. The Council is currently developing a new employee grading structure to replace the WPBR. It is therefore essential that Council officials are able to communicate fully and frankly in order to identify issues, and negotiate, discuss and debate issues arising, in order to effectively plan and manage new Council processes.

If this type of information were routinely released into the public domain it would be likely tosubstantially prejudice the Council’s ability to undertake communications and discussions ofthis type in the future, particularly in relation to the new grading scheme. If Council officials are unable to engage in a free and frank manner without concern of publication before an agreed process has been reached, this would substantially prejudice the Council’s ability to ensure that it has all the necessary information required to make fully informed decisions.

While I believe the exemption contained in section 30(c) of the Act applies in this case, the Council would still be obliged to release the information in response to your request unless the public interest in maintaining the exemptions outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information. The Council acknowledges the significant public interest in openness and transparency and therefore recognises that any request under section 1 of the Act is potentially in the public interest.

However, I am of the view that the public interest in disclosure is outweighed by the greater public interest in Council officials being able to discuss and debate issues arising from new Council processes. It is in the public interest that officials are able to rely on high quality information and advice when planning and implementing new processes such as the Council’s new employee grading scheme. As noted above, there is also a strong public interest in maintaining the integrity of the process of free and frank discussion. In my opinion, disclosure of the information would substantially prejudice the candour and frequency with which issues are discussed, deliberated and revised in future which would substantially prejudice the decision making process.

RIGHT OF APPEAL
I hope you are satisfied with this response. However, if you are not you have the right to make an application within six months of receipt of this letter for a decision by the Scottish Information Commissioner. The Scottish Information Commissioner can be contacted as follows:

Address: Kinburn Castle, Doubledykes Road, St Andrews, KY16 9DS. Email: enquiries@itspublicknowledge.infoTelephone: 01334 464610
You can also use the Scottish Information Commissioner’s online appeal service to make anapplication for a decision:
www.itspublicknowledge.info/appeal
Thereafter a decision by Scottish Information Commissioner may be appealed on a point of law to the Court of Session.

NEW REQUEST
The Council is treating paragraph 3 of your email dated 11 September 2018 as a new request for information under the Act. You requested that the following information be provided to you:
“I would be grateful if the Council could confirm the following points in its FOI Review Response:
a) How many pages of handwritten notes are there in total?
b) In whose name or names are these vital documents recorded?
c) Is there is more than one single volume of notes and if so, how many?
d) Do the notes cover specific periods and if so, please confirm the dates involved?”
Please be advised that your request is being refused in terms of section 14(1) of the Act on the basis that it is vexatious. In particular, the Council is of the view that your request does not have a serious purpose or value and is designed to cause disruption or annoyance to the Council.

Right of Review
If you are dissatisfied with the way Glasgow City Council has dealt with your request you are entitled to require the Council to review its decision. Please note that for a review to take place you must:
  •   Lodge a written request for a review within 40 working days of the date of this letter
  •   Include a correspondence address and a description of the original request and the
    reason why you are dissatisfied
  •   Address your request to the Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council:
    Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council Glasgow City Council
    City Chambers
    George Square
    Glasgow G2 1DU
    Email: FOIreviews@glasgow.gov.uk
    You will receive notice of the results of the review within 20 working days of receipt of your request. The notice will state the decision reached by the reviewing officer as well as details of how to appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner if you are still dissatisfied with theCouncil’s response. You must request an internal review by the Council before a complaintcan be directed to the Scottish Information Commissioner. For your information at this stage, an appeal can be made to the Scottish Information Commissioner by contacting her office as follows if you do remain dissatisfied with the outcome of the Council’s review decision -
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Address: Kinburn Castle, Doubledykes Road, St Andrews, KY16 9DS.
Email: enquiries@itspublicknowledge.info
Telephone: 01334 464610
You can also use the Scottish Information Commissioner’s online appeal service to make anapplication for a decision:
www.itspublicknowledge.info/appeal
Please note that you cannot make an appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner until you have first requested an internal review by the Council.
If you wish to submit a complaint to the Council in relation to the manner in which it has handled your request for information then you can do so by requesting that the Council review itsdecision. Details of how to request a review are set out in the above paragraph “Right of Review”.


Yours sincerely

CAROLE FORREST
DIRECTOR OF GOVERNANCE AND SOLICITOR TO THE COUNCIL
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ANNEX

Review Request Dated 11 September 2018

1) In its answer to a previous FOI Request the Council claimed that it would take 66.5 hours and cost approximately £677.34 to provide relevant information on the WPBR based on an internal sampling exercise. The Council's letter of 14 May 2018 (Enclosure 2) refers along with my response dated 5 June 2018 (Enclosure 1). In this case I am only asking for a tiny fraction of the total WPBR information held by the Council which is discrete, easy to locate and is not spread across multiple office locations. I might add that taking photos of the pages rather than photocopying them would speed the process up considerably.
2) Therefore, I have to disagree with the Council's assertion that it would cost more than £600 to provide this information because the handwritten notes amount to one single document, from one single drawer of the nine individual filing cabinets, even allowing a generous amount of time for personal and/or sensitive details to be redacted. I hope that, on reflection, you will agree that the Council's claim in relation to Section 12 (1) of FOISA does not stand up to serious scrutiny.
3) I also have to say that I find it very strange that, in this day and age, the Council appears to be relying on handwritten notes as a means of recording and securing vital information, but leaving that aside for the moment I would be grateful if the Council could confirm the following points in its FOI Review Response:
a) How many pages of handwritten notes are there in total?
b) In whose name or names are these vital documents recorded?
c) Is there is more than one single volume of notes and if so, how many?
d) Do the notes cover specific periods and if so, please confirm the dates involved?
4) In my view there is a compelling public interest in accessing this information, including the legal advice given to the Council at the time, because my FOI Request goes to the heart of whether or not senior Council senior officials acted in 'good faith' over the introduction of the WPBR in 2007. Senior officials insist they acted in good faith, but how does this claim square with the introduction of a 37 hour WPBR 'rule' which was designed to disadvantage low paid, female dominated jobs? The WPBR handwritten notes almost certainly contain
the answer to this question.
5) As such, the handwritten notes are concerned with the conduct and good governance of Scotland's largest council and they are crucial to a proper understanding of the role played by senior council officials in 2005/07 during the introduction of the WPBR pay scheme - a scheme which has since been judged as 'unfit for purpose' by the highest civil court in Scotland, the Court of Session. For this reason alone, I would expect the Council's political leaders as well as its senior officials to support a policy of full and open disclosure.
7) So the issues surrounding the introduction of the WPBR in 2005/07 are of enormous public interest in 2018 given the long-running equal pay dispute in Glasgow City Council which has been raging for the past 12 years.
8) I find it hard to believe that the handwritten notes contain 'formal legal advice' because I have never heard of a Scottish local authority, or indeed any public body, receiving formal legal advice in the shape of handwritten notes. If the advice is from an official who just happens, or happened, to be a solicitor at the time (e.g Annemarie O'Donnell, Carol Forrest or Ian Drummond) I would argue this is not 'confidential' in a proper legal sense, but again I would ask the Council to clarify the nature of this 'legal advice' in its FOI Review Response.
9) I would also emphasises that I am open to suggestion about restricting the period of my initial request, if that would help get to the bottom of what is contained in the handwritten notes. For example, if the Council agreed to provide information covering the period October 2005 to December 2005, this would help to determine the significance (or otherwise) of the information involved and whether there would be merit in requesting similar information covering the original (and longer) period from October 2005 to November 2006.




10) Finally, can I say that council officials should be doing all in their power to live up to the Council Leader's publicly stated aim of Glasgow City Council becoming a 'world leader' for openness and transparency. To my mind, this means being honest enough to put all the relevant information into the public domain, even if this could prove inconvenient or embarrassing to senior council officials, past or present.

ENCLOSURE 2 

FOI Review Request letter to GCC dated 11 September 2018

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Irvine
To: carole.forrest ; FOIreviews
Sent: Tue, Sep 11, 2018 3:55 pm
Subject: FOISA Review Request







11 September 2018

Carole Forrest
Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council
Glasgow City Council



Dear Ms Forrest

FoI Review Request

I refer to the letter from Glasgow City Council dated 7 September 2018 (Enclosure 3)) and would like to submit a formal FOI Review Request for the following reasons.

1) In its answer to a previous FOI Request the Council claimed that it would take 66.5 hours and cost approximately £677.34 to provide relevant information on the WPBR based on an internal sampling exercise. The Council's letter of 14 May 2018 (Enclosure 2) refers along with my response dated 5 June 2018 (Enclosure 1). In this case I am only asking for a tiny fraction of the total WPBR information held by the Council which is discrete, easy to locate and is not spread across multiple office locations. I might add that taking photos of the pages rather than photocopying them would speed the process up considerably.  

2) Therefore, I have to disagree with the Council's assertion that it would cost more than £600 to provide this information because the handwritten notes amount to one single document, from one single drawer of the nine individual filing cabinets, even allowing a generous amount of time for personal and/or sensitive details to be redacted. I hope that, on reflection, you will agree that the Council's claim in relation to Section 12 (1) of FOISA does not stand up to serious scrutiny. 

3) I also have to say that I find it very strange that, in this day and age, the Council appears to be relying on handwritten notes as a means of recording and securing vital information, but leaving that aside for the moment I would be grateful if the Council could confirm the following points in its FOI Review Response:

a) How many pages of handwritten notes are there in total?
b) In whose name or names are these vital documents recorded?
c) Is there is more than one single volume of notes and if so, how many?
d) Do the notes cover specific periods and if so, please confirm the dates involved?

4) In my view there is a compelling public interest in accessing this information, including the legal advice given to the Council at the time, because my FOI Request goes to the heart of whether or not senior Council senior officials acted in 'good faith' over the introduction of the WPBR in 2007. Senior officials insist they acted in good faith, but how does this claim square with the introduction of a 37 hour WPBR 'rule' which was designed to disadvantage low paid, female dominated jobs? The WPBR handwritten notes almost certainly contain the answer to this question. 

5) As such, the handwritten notes are concerned with the conduct and good governance of Scotland's largest council and they are crucial to a proper understanding of the role played by senior council officials in 2005/07 during the introduction of the WPBR pay scheme - a scheme which has since been judged as 'unfit for purpose' by the highest civil court in Scotland, the Court of Session. For this reason alone, I would expect the Council's political leaders as well as its senior officials to support a policy of full and open disclosure.

7) So the issues surrounding the introduction of the WPBR in 2005/07 are of enormous public interest in 2018 given the long-running equal pay dispute in Glasgow City Council which has been raging for the past 12 years.

8) I find it hard to believe that the handwritten notes contain 'formal legal advice' because I have never heard of a Scottish local authority, or indeed any public body, receiving formal legal advice in the shape of handwritten notes. If the advice is from an official who just happens, or happened, to be a solicitor at the time (e.g Annemarie O'Donnell, Carol Forrest or Ian Drummond) I would argue this is not 'confidential' in a proper legal sense, but again I would ask the Council to clarify the nature of this 'legal advice' in its FOI Review Response.  

9) I would also emphasises that I am open to suggestion about restricting the period of my initial request, if that would help get to the bottom of what is contained in the handwritten notes. For example, if the Council agreed to provide information covering the period October 2005 to December 2005, this would help to determine the significance (or otherwise) of the information involved and whether there would be merit in requesting similar information covering the original (and longer) period from October 2005 to November 2006. 

10) Finally, can I say that council officials should be doing all in their power to live up to the Council Leader's publicly stated aim of Glasgow City Council becoming a 'world leader' for openness and transparency. To my mind, this means being honest enough to put all the relevant information into the public domain, even if this could prove inconvenient or embarrassing to senior council officials, past or present.

I look forward to your review response and would be grateful if you could reply to me by email at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Kind regards




Mark Irvine

ENCLOSURE A - FOI REVIEW REQUEST LETTER FROM MARK IRVINE DATED 5 JUNE 2018

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Irvine <markirvine@compuserve.com>
To: carole.forrest <carole.forrest@ced.glasgow.gov.uk>; FOIreviews <FOIreviews@glasgow.gov.uk>
Sent: Tue, Jun 5, 2018 4:17 pm
Subject: FOI Review Request


5 June 2018


Carole Forrest
Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council
Glasgow City Council




Dear Ms Forrest

FoI Review Request

I refer to the letter from Glasgow City Council dated 14 May 2018 (copy attached) in  response to my FoI Request dated 16 April 2018. 

I am asking for a review of the City Council's initial decision for the following reasons:

1) In my view the Council's response is deliberately obstructive rather than 'helpful' which is one of the basic requirements of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

2) I have no desire to inspect every WPBR document held by Glasgow City Council, but I framed my FOI Request in this way (i.e. broken down over 24 months) because of the Council's previous refusal to explain what information is currently held regarding the WPBR.

3) In its reply dated 14 May 2018 the Council describes the data held on the WPBR in the following terms:

"The Council has carried out two sample exercises consisting of WPBR files within three filing cabinets holding approximately 11 lever arch files each. The sample exercises are based on approximately 10% of these documents and looked at the cost of providing the documents both electronically and in hardcopy." 

4) Now I don't accept the Council's costing calculations or that this exercise would exceed £600 (because the Council has not addressed my requests as 24 individual requests), but I am prepared to accept that the Council is acting in 'good faith' and fulfilling its basic duty under FOISA 2002, if in responding to my FOI Review Request the Council agrees to:

a) Provide me with the details of what information is contained in the three filing cabinets - by describing the names titles of both individual and generic documents

b) Provide me with a copy of the Terms of Reference (ToR) agreed between the Council and Hays Consulting at the start of the WPBR process. The ToR document will, of course, 'one of a kind', so it will not be difficult to pinpoint and proving this information will not get anyway near the £600 figure cited by the Council in denying my FOI Request.

5) Please note that if the Council is not prepared to be reasonable by helping to identify the information it currently holds on the WPBR, then I cannot accept that the Council is acting in 'good faith'. 

6) I have no desire to waste the Council's time and resources, or those of the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) and I would prefer to target my FOI Requests more effectively and selectively, although this requires a reasonable level of co-operation and help from the Council itself. 

7) If the Council is not prepared to be more helpful and accommodating, I will pursue the matter to the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC).

8) For completeness can I remind you of the Council's policy of becoming a 'world leader' in terms of openness and transparency which is explained by the Council Leader, Cllr Susan Aitken, in the attached article from the Evening Times dated xx November 2017

I look forward to your response to my Review Request and would be grateful if you could reply to me by email at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Kind regards





Mark Irvine


Enclosures x 2


ENCLOSURE B - FOI RESPONSE LETTER FROM GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL DATED 14 MAY 2018

Our Ref: FOI 6581088
Your Ref:

14 May 2018



Dear Mr Irvine

Request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (“the Act”)

Thank you for your email received on 16 April 2018 requesting that the following information be provided to you:

 “I would like to make the following requests under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. Please regard each of the following requests as separate and individual FOISA requests.

1) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of October 2005?

2) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of November 2005?

3) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of December 2005?

4) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of January 2006?

5) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of February 2006?

6) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of March 2006?

7) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of April 2006?

8) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of May 2006?

9) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of June 2006?

10) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of July 2006?

11) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of August 2006?

12) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of September 2006?

13) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of  October 2006?

14) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of November 2006?

15) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of December 2006?

16) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of January 2007?

17) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of February 2007?

18) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of March 2007?

19) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of April 2007?

20) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of May 2007?

21) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of June 2007?

22) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of July 2007?

23) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of August 2007?

24) Please provide me with all of the information the Council holds relating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”) - for the month of September 2007?

The Council is treating your request as a request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.  

On inspecting our records, however, it would appear that compliance with this request would cost the Council more than the upper limit allowed by Section 12(1) of the Act and the Fees Regulations made under the Act (this limit is currently £600). Accordingly we are unable to comply with your request. 
The implementation of WPBR involved all Council departments and the requested information is therefore not held centrally in one location. It would be necessary to search each department including current and archived files. 
The Council has carried out two sample exercises consisting of WPBR files within three filing cabinets holding approximately 11 lever arch files each. The sample exercises are based on approximately 10% of these documents and looked at the cost of providing the documents both electronically and in hardcopy. 
These figures have been calculated in accordance with the Fees Regulations made under the Act. This includes the costs which would be incurred in locating and retrieving the information, photocopying, postage and staff time. The staff time charged reflects the true pay scale of the member(s) of staff who would be involved capped at a ceiling of £15/hour per member of staff. 
Sample Exercise A (Hardcopy):
Staff Time (photocopying): £9.96 x 82.5 hours = £821.70
Photocopying: 6,000 x A4 sheets @ 10p per sheet = £600
Postage: 10 boxes @ £14.75 per box = £147.50 
Total cost of sample exercise A = £1,569.20
Sample Exercise B (Digital):
Staff Time (scan and file): £9.96 x 55 hours = £547.80 
Staff Time (processing digital files): £9.96 x 11.5 hours = £114.54
Secure Memory Stick: £10.00
Postage Costs (size exceeds the limits the Council’s email capacity): £5.00
Total cost of sample exercise B = £677.34
As stated above, in order to comply with the request, this exercise would be required across multiple offices within the Council and the estimated costs would be substantially higher. Please note, the Council is aware that the information requested contains personal information that would require to be redacted. However, in the sample of documents searched no personal information was identified and therefore the cost of this has not been taken into account. 
The Council has the option of complying with requests where the costs exceed £600. However, on this occasion we have decided not to due to the resources (both financial and human) which voluntary compliance with this request would divert away from our core business. 
By way of advice and assistance, the Council has also considered whether it would be possible to narrow the scope of the request to enable it to provide some of the information requested. For example, the Council considered whether information for one month could be provided. However, as information is not stored chronologically or in a centralised location the same steps would be required regardless of the time range specified in the request. 
If you are dissatisfied with the way Glasgow City Council has dealt with your request you are entitled to require the Council to review its response.  Please note that for a review to take place you must:
  • Lodge a written requirement for a review within 40 working days of the date of this letter
  • Include a correspondence address and a description of the original request and the reason why you are dissatisfied
  • Address your request to the Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council:
Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council
Glasgow City Council
City Chambers
George Square
Glasgow G2 1DU


You will receive notice of the results of the review within 20 working days of receipt of your request.  The notice will state the decision reached by the reviewing officer as well as details of how to appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner if you are still dissatisfied with the Council’s response.  You must request an internal review by the Council before a complaint can be directed to the Scottish Information Commissioner.  For your information at this stage, an appeal can be made to the Scottish Information Commissioner by contacting her office as follows if you do remain dissatisfied with the outcome of the Council’s review decision -  

Address:  Kinburn Castle, Doubledykes Road, St Andrews, KY16 9DS. 
Telephone:  01334 464610

You can also use the Scottish Information Commissioner’s online appeal service to make an application for a decision: www.itspublicknowledge.info/appeal 

Please note that you cannot make an appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner until you have first requested an internal review by the Council.

If you wish to submit a complaint to the Council in relation to the manner in which it has handled your request for information then you can do by requesting that the Council review its response.  Details of how to request a review are set out in the above paragraph “Right of Review”.

Yours sincerely


ENCLOSURE 3

INITIAL FOI RESPONSE LETTER FROM GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL DATED 7 SEPTEMBER 2018


Freedom of Information Team 
Chief Executive’s Department



Our Ref: FOI 6694660
Your Ref:

7 September 2018



Dear Mr Irvine

Request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (“the Act”)

Thank you for your email received on 10 August 2018 requesting that the following information be provided to you:

 “1) Please provide me with a copy of the handwritten notes regarding the planning/implementation of WPBR from October 2005 to November 2006.”

The Council is treating your request as a request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

We can advise you that the Council holds substantial handwritten notes which fall within the scope of your request. These are contained within bound volumes which would result in additional photocopying time as the notes cannot be fed through the feeder for the scanner and each page will need to be scanned individually. 

The vast majority of the pages will require some redaction for personal data, for example staff names, or legal advice given by the Council’s solicitors. This would be a very time consuming process. We are therefore of the view that it would exceed the cost threshold allowed by section 12(1) of the Act and the fees regulations made under the Act (this limit is currently £600). 

The Council has the option of complying with requests where the costs exceed £600.  However, on this occasion we have decided not to due to the resources (both financial and human) which voluntary compliance with this request would divert away from our core business.

We have provided below a further explanation of why the information that you have requested would require to be redacted: 

Personal data 
We believe that some of the information that you have requested is exempt from release under section 38(1)(b) of the 2002 Act. This means that disclosure of the information would involve releasing personal information about individuals. Release of this information would breach the Data Protection Principles contained within Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation. These require us to process personal information in a lawful, fair and transparent manner. 

The individuals concerned would not expect their personal details to be released in response to an FOI request. In our opinion, it would be unfair to the individuals concerned for such information to be released into the public domain. 

Legal Advice 
Some of the information is exempt from release under FOI because of the exemption contained in section 36(1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.  In other words, the material in question consists of information in respect of which the Council could maintain a claim to confidentiality of communications in legal proceedings.
While I have concluded that the exemption contained in section 36(1) applies in this case, the Council would still be obliged to release the information in response to your request unless the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.  In this case, we take the view that only a compelling public interest would be sufficient to justify departure from the principle that communications between a lawyer and their client should remain confidential.  No reasons have been advanced which would justify disclosure in this case, and accordingly we are unable to comply with your request.

If you are dissatisfied with the way Glasgow City Council has dealt with your request you are entitled to request the Council to review its response.  Please note that for a review to take place you must:

  • Lodge a written requirement for a review within 40 working days of the date of this letter
  • Include a correspondence address and a description of the original request and the reason why you are dissatisfied
  • Address your request to the Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council:

Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council
Glasgow City Council
City Chambers
George Square
Glasgow G2 1DU


You will receive notice of the results of the review within 20 working days of receipt of your request.  The notice will state the decision reached by the reviewing officer as well as details of how to appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner if you are still dissatisfied with the Council’s response.  You must request an internal review by the Council before a complaint can be directed to the Scottish Information Commissioner.  For your information at this stage, an appeal can be made to the Scottish Information Commissioner by contacting her office as follows if you do remain dissatisfied with the outcome of the Council’s review decision -  

Address:  Kinburn Castle, Doubledykes Road, St Andrews, KY16 9DS. 
Telephone:  01334 464610

You can also use the Scottish Information Commissioner’s online appeal service to make an application for a decision: www.itspublicknowledge.info/appeal 

Please note that you cannot make an appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner until you have first requested an internal review by the Council.

If you wish to submit a complaint to the Council in relation to the manner in which it has handled your request for information then you can do by requesting that the Council review its response.  Details of how to request a review are set out in the above paragraph “Right of Review”.

Yours sincerely



Information and Data Protection Team
Chief Executive’s Department

Glasgow City Council’s Privacy Statements


ENCLOSURE 4

FOI REQUEST LETTER FROM MARK IRVINE DATED 10 AUGUST 2018


-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Irvine
To: annemarie.odonnell ; foi
Sent: Fri, Aug 10, 2018 5:04 pm
Subject: FOISA Request




10 August 2018


Annemarie O'Donnell
Chief Executive
Glasgow City Council


Dear Ms O'Donnell
FOISA Request

I refer to the attached letter from Glasgow City Council dated 08 August 2018 and would like to make the following request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. 

1) Please provide me with a copy of the handwritten notes regarding the planning/implementation of WPBR from October 2005 to November 2006 

I look forward to your replay and would be grateful if you could respond to me by e-mail at: markirvine@compuserve.com
Kind regards
Mark Irvine