Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Glasgow, FoI and Equal Pay



Here is Glasgow City Council's response to my FoI Review Request regarding the operation of its Employee Development Commitment (EDC) scheme.

Now as regular readers will recall the EDC is a controversial scheme which gave special and more favourable treatment to the former bonus earning (all male) jobs back in 2007.

In effect, these former bonus earning jobs were given a guarantee that their higher earnings were secure and would be maintained going forward, beyond the normal protection period which was supposed to end in April 2009.

Yet Glasgow City Council is claiming not to have 'good' records about the operation of the EDC scheme and that to retrieve the information I requested would require a detailed search of almost 20,000 individual files.

Which would be funny, if this bogus claim didn't make Scotland's largest council look completely inept and ridiculous.

Because I did not ask the City Council for a 'central record' of the EDC scheme - senior council officials have responded using this careful choice of words knowing perhaps full well, perhaps, that the information that I requested is held in individual departments where the Gravediggers and Gardeners worked.

Read the full details of the City Council's response below, but one thing's for sure we are a long way from the kind of 'open, honest and transparent' pay arrangements that people were promised by the new SNP-led administration.

More to follow on this subject - so watch this space.


The Review Decision

I have now carried out a review of the Council’s response to your request contained within the Decision Letter.

On reviewing the Council’s records I can advise that the Council has been able to locate some of the information you have requested.

The Employee Development Commitment (“EDC”) ran from 2007 to 2009.

The Council has located a document headed “Employees “Signed Up” to EDC”. This document has no contextual information and sits in isolation. This document appears to have been collated in 2011 and states that 2,691 staff “signed up” to the EDC, 1,313 of which were male and 1,378 of which were female.

The Council has also located spreadsheets dated April 2009 which appear to show number of staff in the EDC. These spreadsheets have no contextual information and sit in isolation. The Council has used these spreadsheets to calculate that 849 staff were in the EDC at April 2009, 455 of which were male and 394 of which were female.

Please note that the Council is not able to confirm that the above information is complete or accurate as there is no central record of the staff involved in the EDC. In order to verify the above information or to provide the number of Council employees involved in the EDC programme broken down by year and by gender as requested the Council would require to check employees’ personal records.

An employee’s participation in the EDC is not flagged on their personal record. There may be correspondence in their file which would have confirmed their participation. However, since that time paper records underwent a cleansing exercise prior to digitisation and due to the time elapsed since EDC such records may have been removed as part of the cleansing exercise.

There are approximately 13,000 current employee files and approximately 6,000 lever files which would require to be checked.

Under Section 12(1) of the Act the Council does not require to comply with a request for information if the Council estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the amount prescribed by the fee regulations. The current limit is £600. The estimated cost to comply with your request exceeds this limit and therefore the Council is unable to comply with your request.

Even if a member of staff only took 30 seconds to check each personal record and record the data this task would take approximately 158 hours to complete. This means the task would at a minimum cost £2,370 in staff costs. This does not include photocopying and printing costs. 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 per hour per member of staff.

As the estimated cost to comply with your request exceeds the limit of £600 the Council is unable to comply with your request.

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.

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.info
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

Thereafter a decision by Scottish Information Commissioner may be appealed on a point of law to the Court of Session.page2image30712 page2image30872

Yours sincerely


CAROLE FORREST
DIRECTOR OF GOVERNANCE AND SOLICITOR TO THE COUNCIL


  



Glasgow, FoI and Equal Pay (31/07/17)


Glasgow City Council is behaving very badly if you ask me, by refusing to provide me with details of its controversial EDC (Employee Development Commitment) scheme.

So I have decided to ask the City Council to review its decision to decline my request on the grounds of cost - see letter below.

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 July 2017 rejecting my earlier FoI request on the grounds that the cost involved exceeds £600.

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

1 In my view the cost of providing the information I have requested is minimal and requires only an hour or two of someone's time.

2
 The information must be contained in Council Committee reports and, as such, is capable of being readily and easily retrieved from digital or paper records.

By my reckoning the Council's chief executive is paid around £75 an hour which would allow even Annemarie O'Donnell a full 8 hours to complete this relatively simple task without exceeding the £600 figure set out in Section 12 (1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.



By way of comparison an employee earning a lower and more typical rate of pay of £8.50 an hour, for example, would have over 70 hours or two full working weeks to complete the task.

5 If on reflection the City Council is still not prepared to provide this information, I would ask you to explain the basis of your cost calculations in responding to my FoI Review Request, as I intend to register an immediate appeal with the Scottish Information Commissioner.
I look forward to your response and would be grateful if you could reply to me by email at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Kind regards
Mark Irvine

If the City Council does not quickly come to its senses, I will take the matter to the independent Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC). 

   


Glasgow and Equal Pay (29/07/17)


A number of readers have commented on yesterday's post about Freedom of Information and the fight for equal pay in  Glasgow City Council - here's what they had to say.

City council should realease details and just get this over and done with its a shambles from the council


T

I noticed Mark, that you put this FOI request in on March, so that would have been under the labor leadership, so is the refusal from the old labor leadership or the new SNP leadership, and is there anything we can do to get this issue addressed quickly, I for one don't mind contributing to this to move this forward.


K


Hi Mark had a wee chuckle about latest Glasgow post.Funny how there seems to be unlimited funds to fight indefensible appeals but they can't find £600 for an f.o.i request. How's about a wee crowd funding.


M


I have now decided to ask Glasgow City Council to 'review' its initial decision as I do not believe that the cost of answering my FoI request is more than £600. 

If necessary, I will also appeal the decision to the Scottish Information Commissioner. 

I'll share my Review Request on the blog site as soon as it's finished. 


   

Glasgow and Equal Pay (248/07/17)


Here's a good example of Glasgow officials doing their level best to hide and obscure details of the City Council's WPBR pay arrangements.
Back in March I asked the City Council to provide a breakdown of the number of employees who benefited from its controversial Employee Development Scheme (EDC) which gave a guarantee (in response to the threat of union strike action) that the earnings of former bonus earners would be maintained and preserved beyond 2009 - when the agreed protection period was was due to end.
Having taken weeks to respond my FOI request the City Council's says it will cost more than £600 to provide this information, so they are refusing to do so under Section 12 (1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Now this is the first FOI request (from me) that the City Council has refused to answer on the grounds of cost and I have to say I think it's highly significant that they should play this card in relation to the Employee Development Commitment.

Because the EDC, as regular readers know, effectively gave traditional male jobs more favourable treatment than their female colleagues.

So maybe the fight's not over in Glasgow - maybe there are still senior officials in Glasgow who reject my argument that Scotland's largest council should be open, honest and transparent over its WPBR pay arrangements


Dear Mr Irvine
Request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

I refer to your request received on 20 March 2017 requesting that the following information be provided to you:

‘Please provide me with following anonymised information regarding the operation of the City Council's Employee Development Commitment (EDC) programme which was introduced alongside the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) in 2007:

 1.  The total number of council employees involved in the EDC programme in each year from 2007 onwards - until the EDC programme was finally closed

 2.  The gender breakdown of council employees involved in the EDC programme each year from 2007 onwards - until the EDC programme was finally closed 

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

The response to your questions are given below.

This particular request will 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). The Council has the option of complying with requests where costs exceed £600.00. However, on this occasion we have decided not to due to resources (both financial and human) which voluntary compliance with this request would divert away from our core business. Accordingly we are unable to comply with your request.

The Council accordingly has complied with your request. 


So watch this space.