Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Glasgow - Openness and Transparency



As regular readers know, I am distinctly unimpressed at the level of 'openness and transparency' surrounding Glasgow City Council's WPBR pay arrangements.

So I have submitted two further FOI requests:
  • one asking for copies of all correspondence regarding the award of the WPBR contract to Hays HR Consulting in 2005/06
  • a second asking for details of previous positions held in the City Council by its current chief executive (Annemarie O'Donnell) and executive director of corporate affairs (Carole Forrest). 
I do know that George Black was Annemarie's immediate predecessor as Glasgow CEO and that Ian Drummond was the City Council's solicitor and corporate affairs director until 2010.
   
What I don't know is what council positions Annemarie O'Donnell and Carole Forrest held previously and what, if any, responsibility they had for issues relating to equal pay and the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR).

  


Annemarie O'Donnell
Chief Executive
Glasgow City Council

Dear Ms O'Donnell

FOISA Request

I would like to make the following request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. 

1) Please provide me with the copies of all written communications (including emails) between the City Council's Chief Executive and Hays HR Consulting and/or Dr Steve Watson regarding the award of the contract to develop the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) in 2005/06?

2) Please provide me with the copies of all written communications (including emails) between the City Council's Executive Director of Corporate Services and Hays HR Consulting and/or Dr Steve Watson regarding the award of the contract to develop the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) in 2005/06?

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


Mark Irvine 


Annemarie O'Donnell
Chief Executive
Glasgow City Council


Dear Ms O'Donnell
FOISA Request

I would like to make the following request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. 

1) Please provide me with the details of all posts held by Annemarie O'Donnell (including the relevant job profiles) in Glasgow City Council prior to her appointment as Chief Executive? 

2) Please provide me with the details of all posts held by Carole Forrest (including the relevant job profiles) in Glasgow City Council prior to her appointment as Executive Director of Corporate Services? 

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


Mark Irvine 

Glasgow - What a Shocker! (30/01/18)



Glasgow is Scotland's largest and best resourced council by a long way, but I am still taken aback at times at the way the city council is managed by very senior and highly paid officials. 

For example, in this response to a recent FoI Review Request, Glasgow says it has no proper records of what fees were paid to the external consultants who developed up the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR). 

Now this was a really major decision on Glasgow's part, arguably the single, most important employment issue facing the Council in its history (back in 2005/06), but as you can see from the Council's response no one can explain what the WPBR actually cost - and apparently all the senior officials who might have been able to help have since left GCC's employment. 

I have to say my initial reaction was - 'You couldn't make this up!'

I've still to decide whether to appeal this decision to the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) although it does seem quite astonishing to me that the Council is unable to give a proper account of how large sums of public money were spent. 

Particularly as the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, has since judged the WPBR to be 'unfit for purpose' and yet no one within the City Council has been held responsible for this shocking state of affairs. 

  

Dear Mr Irvine 

REQUEST FOR REVIEW UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (SCOTLAND) ACT 2002 (“THE ACT”) 

Thank you for your email of 7 December 2017 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 on for the following information: 

  1. “Please confirm the total monies paid to Steve Watson and/or Hays HR Consulting in connection with the introduction of Glasgow City Council’s Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) and the Employee Development Commitment (EDC)? 
  2. Please confirm whether these monies were paid in instalments and if so, the dates on which individual payments were made? 
  3. Please provide a breakdown of these payments between WPBR and EDC?” 
THE DECISION 

The Council emailed you on 6 December 2017 and provided you with a response to your request for information. 

You were advised that in accordance with section 17 of the Act, the information that you were looking for is not held by the Council. You were advised that the Council does have records of payments made to Hays HR Consulting. However the information available does not allow for the identification of the reasons for payment. It is therefore not possible to identify payments made in respect of Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) or the Employee Development Commitment (EDC). 

YOUR REQUEST FOR REVIEW 

On 7 December 2016 you emailed the Council requesting a formal review of the decision. A copy of your review request is attached at the Appendix to this letter. 

THE REVIEW DECISION 

I have carried out a full and impartial review of the initial response provided to you. 

I can confirm that the Council does not hold the information that you have requested in accordance with section 17(1) of the Act. 

As advised in the Council’s initial response letter, the Council does have records of payments made to Hays HR Consulting but it is not possible to identify the reason why older payments were made. I have been advised that payments are also recorded as being made to Hays HR Personnel and Hays Recruitment Specialists. This information has been obtained from our SAP system which was introduced in 2006. I am advised that the earliest payment that we currently have hold in SAP to Hays is on 5/8/2008. 

The SAP system contains the invoice number, date, amount paid and other codes such as assignment number and document number. There is also a notes section on SAP but this is not a mandatory field to complete and often this field is left blank. In our order to identify if a payment has been made in respect of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) or Employee Development Commitment (EDC), it is necessary to use the invoice number/charge code listed on SAP to check the invoices. I am advised that in line with the Council’s file retention policy, invoices are normally retained for 5 years plus the current financial year before being destroyed. Without the invoices, I have been advised that it is not possible to identify the reason for a payment being made. 

You have asked whether we can explain “what other work Hays HR Consulting (Steve Watson) carried out during the period covered by the invoices and how much these invoices were for, as this would obviously help to sort the ‘wheat from the chaff’, so to speak”. Payments can be made to Hays for a variety of reasons, for example, for the payment of agency workers. As explained above, if invoices are no longer held it is not possible to identify the reason why an individual payment was made. Unfortunately it would therefore not be possible to provide any accurate figures which would be of assistance to you. 

I have also checked whether any staff within the Council would be able to identify which payments have been made to Hays/Hays HR Consulting for WPBR and/or EDC. However, all senior managers who were involved in WPBR/EDC and may have been able to assist with the identification of payments have since left the Council. 



7 December 2017

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 6 December 2017 responding to my earlier FoI request dated 8 November 2017, a key extract of which is reproduced below for easy reference:

"In accordance with Section 17 of the Act we would advise you that the information you are looking for is not held by the Council. Neither does anyone else hold it on our behalf.  Accordingly we are unable to comply with your request.  The reasons for this as follows:

"Glasgow City Council have no record of any payments being made to Steve Watson.

"Glasgow City Council does have records of payments made to Hays HR Consulting. However, the information available does not allow for the identification of the reasons for payment.   It is therefore not possible to identify payments made in respect of Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) or the Employee Development Commitment (EDC)."

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

1) The information I requested relates to the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WBR) and Employee Development Commitment (EDC) - two very specific and discrete issues on which the Council was advised by Steve Watson of Hays HR Consulting.

2) My request covers the period from August 2005 onwards when the City Council first began to consider new, supposedly non-discriminatory pay arrangements (the WPBR and EDC) which were finally introduced in January 2007.

3) For example, I am in possession of a document from Hays HR Consulting dated December 2006 which bears the title: Glasgow City Council - Employee Development Commitment. The document states that it has been "Prepared by Steve Watson" and "Prepared for Elma Murray" whom I believe was your predecessor as Director of Governance at Glasgow City Council.  

4) So, I am absolutely astounded to hear that the City Council does have records of payments being made to HR Consulting (and therefore Steve Watson), but that the FOI Team has no idea why these payments were made - because this must surely amount to an extremely serious breach of the council's Financial Management and Control Regulations.

5) I attach a copy of Glasgow's Financial and Management Control Regulations (from May 2017), in case you are not familiar with this document, and separately from my FoI Review Request I am quite prepared to raise this matter with the City Council's internal and external auditors, as well as making a complaint to the Accounts Commission for Scotland. 

6) In any event I simply do not believe that Scotland's largest and best resourced council is unable to explain the basis of these potentially large payments to Hays HR Consulting and Steve Watson who were engaged by Glasgow City Council for a very specific and clearly identifiable purpose during the period I have identified.

7) Perhaps you can explain in your response to my Review Request what other work Hays HR Consulting (Steve Watson) carried out during the period covered by their invoices and how much these invoices were for, as this would obviously help to sort the 'wheat from the chaff', so to speak.
8) In any event, I am very concerned that the FOI Team is somehow being misled or misdirected because the only other explanation I can think of is that the City Council is deliberately withholding this information.

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

Robin Hood in Reverse



The local government pension rules changed some years ago to introduce a 'career average' rather than a 'final salary' scheme which is much fairer, if you ask me. 

Because the old arrangements benefited the higher earners rather than the 'foot soldiers' who provide front-line council services 365 days of the year.  

In effect, low paid and often part-time workers were subsidising the retirement pensions much more highly paid senior council officials.

  

Robin Hood in Reverse (20/03/16)


As the pensions aspect of equal pay begins to heat up in in North Lanarkshire, I thought it might be helpful to publish a few posts from the blog site archive on the subject. 

The pensions rules changed recently after a long and pointless strike, but the changes only affect 'new starters' if I remember correctly, so while the system is now generally fairer to the taxpayer, the highest paid public officials still get to retire on hugely favourable terms compared to their lower paid colleagues.  


Robin Hood in Reverse (13/11/13)


After months and years of protests and strikes, the trade unions in Scotland have finally come to their senses - by accepting the principle of career average pension schemes which are much fairer than the old final salary arrangements. 

But what a palaver over an issue that has been as plain as the nose on your face ever since this dispute began - why should the low paid subsidise the pensions of the much higher paid?

I wrote on the subject back in 2010 and pointed out that under a 'final salary' scheme  low paid council cleaners were helping to pay for the pension of their council's chief executive.

Here's a previous post from the blog site archive which explains the background to this dispute which has been running for three long years when it should, in fact, have been settled a long time ago.

For the Few - Not the Many (7 October 2010)

Former Labour Minister - John Hutton - today sounded the death knell for final salary pensions schemes - proposing instead that pensions should be based on a career average earnings.

In other words - that people get back out of the pension scheme - broadly what they put in during the course of their working lives.

Who could argue with that because it's a much fairer sytem than the one we have just now - where low paid council workers effectively subsidise the big pension pots of their bosses and senior managers.

I wrote about this back in June 2010 - here's what I had to say then about 'Robin Hood in Reverse' - so it's good to see that public policy makers are finally grasping the nettle.

By the way, elected councillors in Scotland now have access to the local government pension scheme - and that's on the basis of career average earnings.

So why should senior council staff be any different? 

Robin Hood in Reverse (2010)

The final salary pension schemes operated by Scotland's councils - are a fine example of Robin Hood in reverse.

Why? Because they take from the 'poor' and give to the 'rich'.

What happens is that low paid employees - end up subsidising much higher paid groups - including many senior and middle ranking officials.

In effect, the part-time cleaner is subsidising the lifestyle - of the council chief executive.

The system works in favour of senior council staff of all kinds - including many teachers.

Let's take an example to illustrate the point - a chief executive paid £150,000 a year - now the person doesn't actually work at that salary level throughout his or her council career.

But their pension is based on this final salary - even if they've only done the job for a relatively short time - as part of their overall service which can be a maximum of 40 years.

The pension scheme rules changed in April 2009, but for the great majority of employees (i.e. those in post before April 2009) - the maximum pension is still worth half of a person's annual salary - plus three times their annual pension as a tax free lump sum.

So, a chief executive on £150,000 and a maximum service would receive - £75,000 annual pension plus £225,000 as a tax free lump sum, i.e. 3 x £75,000.

The new post-April 2009 rules provide for an even bigger pension - worth two thirds of a person's final salary - 25% of which can be converted into a tax free lump sum.

But under both sets of benefits and rules - the reality is that other lower paid council workers (and other tax payers) - are helping to subsidise the scheme - for the benefit of the better paid staff.

Why? Because the higher paid take out much more than they pay in - over their working lives.

Meanwhile - at the other end of the pay ladder - the scheme is not so generous.

Because most low paid workers remain relatively low paid - by and large they don't have a career path - or many opportunities for promotion.

For most low paid workers - their pensions reflects what they pay in to the scheme over the years - because their pay rises only very slowly and mainly through an annual 'cost of living' pay increase.

Now what would be much fairer - and more progressive - is a scheme based on average salary.

So that people get back roughly what they put in over their working lives - this could even leave a bit of room to boost pension benefits - in favour of the lower paid.

The unions like to pretend they're on the side of the low paid when it comes to pensions - but in truth they're propping up a system that favours the relatively better paid.

Does this remind anyone of how the trade unions behaved over equal pay?

Pensions and Equal Pay



Stefan Cross explains the significance of Pensions and Equal Pay and the difference a pensionable settlement can make to equal pay claimants.

  

Free Speech vs 'Transplaining'

Image result for transplaining + images

Here's an interesting article from The Sunday Times which delves into the intolerance surrounding the 'transgender' debate as a teacher was cleared of professional misconduct charges after posting a comment on Facebook.

John Wilkes was charged with making “grossly discriminatory (transphobic) statements . . . that were damaging to the mental health of members” and which brought the union into disrepute, of harassing transgender members and of harassing Annette Pryce, LGBT executive member of the NUT, who made the original complaint.

What a load of old bollix if you ask me, yet Mr Wilkes' trade union (the NUT) managed to turn the issue into a ridiculous charge of 'professional misconduct' against one of its own members who had every right to say what he said.

  


https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/teacher-roy-wilkes-wins-fight-over-transphobic-comments-5c0m0g2nd?shareToken=2024823dc4c9d5ca956ef51f7b832a0b

Teacher Roy Wilkes wins fight over ‘transphobic’ comments

Critic of giving teenagers puberty-blocking drugs hails ‘victory for freedom of speech’

By Nicholas Hellen - The Sunday Times
Wilkes: decision backs right to disagree with ‘prevailing narrative’ on gender - JON SUPER

A maths teacher was referred to a disciplinary panel for professional misconduct because he said boys and girls should be able to wear whatever they want without anyone jumping to the conclusion that they are transgender.

He was accused of “transplaining” and subjected to a disciplinary hearing by his union, the National Union of Teachers (NUT). In a three-paragraph statement on a Facebook page used by 7,000 NUT members, Roy Wilkes, 59, also said prescribing puberty-blocking drugs to children was “a form of child abuse”.

Wilkes added it could lead to a lifetime dependence on hormonal drugs, and many children changed their minds after puberty about changing gender.

He was accused of making “grossly discriminatory (transphobic) statements . . . that were damaging to the mental health of members” and which brought the union into disrepute, of harassing transgender members and of harassing Annette Pryce, LGBT executive member of the NUT, who made the complaint.

This weekend, Wilkes spoke out after the national disciplinary committee of the National Education Union, of which the NUT is part, dismissed all three charges against him. Wilkes said: “It is an important blow for freedom of speech and for the right of people to question and disagree with the prevailing narrative on self-identification and gender.”

He said he was particularly shocked to be summoned to the hearing on January 13 because he was a longstanding member of the Labour party and of the union.

“I have fought all my life for equality and against discrimination,” said Wilkes, who teaches at a secondary school in northern Manchester. He got embroiled in the Facebook debate after defending Kiri Tunks, vice-president of the NUT, who wrote a newspaper article on transgender issues which warned that relaxing the legal definition of what it means to be a man or a woman could render sex discrimination law meaningless.

One critic accused Wilkes of “transplaining and quite possibly mansplaining”. The person said it was “disgraceful” to suggest that they were “stifling debate” by refusing to “engage or ‘debate’ my identity and very core of who I am with those who actively refuse to accept that”.

Another wrote that “transphobic posts on the union’s Facebook page have been really impacting my levels of dysphoria”. They said that when Wilkes wrote that he did not agree that trans women were women “that comment made me feel physically sick and the palpitations that I’ve been suffering from started again”.

Wilkes said that, if he had lost the case, he could have been expelled from the union, with implications for his job.

Labour has suspended Jennifer James, a party activist who is funding a legal challenge to the party’s decision to allow self-defining women on to all-women shortlists. She posted a Twitter message saying that she had been suspended “for saying women don’t have dicks”.

@nicholashellen