Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Glasgow - FOI, Senior Officials and Equal Pay



Here is Glasgow's response to my FOI request in which I asked for information about the creation of the City Council's WPBR.

Now this is a very strange letter because the response has been issued in the name of the chief executive, Annemarie O'Donnell, even though the original FOI Review Request was submitted to Carole Forrest, the Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council. 

The letter has also been sent on Carole Forrest's headed paper but has been signed by the Council's chief executive, so something odd appears to be going on between these two highly paid officials.

In any event, I plan to appeal the Council's decision to the independent Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) because I don't believe for a minute that 'cost' is the real reason for GCC refusing my request, nor that it would cost over £600 to provide me with the details of what information GCC holds on its WPBR pay scheme.

In my view, this information ought to be freely and readily available for inspection via the Council's archive, especially with Glasgow claiming it wants to be "world class" in terms of openness and transparency - see the article below from the Evening Times dated 31 October 2017.

If you ask me, senior officials are making the Council look completely ridiculous and I now suspect that they really do have something to hide because why else would they be so reluctant to explain their actions and behaviour in relation to the WPBR?

In rejecting my FOI request the Council has chosen to hide behind the upper limit on costs (currently £600), but this is, of course, discretionary and given the importance of getting to the truth about the WPBR the Council could simply choose not to invoke this particular clause.

And, of course, senior officials have not always been so careful about exercising discretion when spending public money, for example over the decision to award discretionary 'added years' to the leaving package of the Council's former chief solicitor, Ian Drummond, worth an eye watering £250,000 or thereabouts.

So, in my view, this has nothing to do with the prudent use of public funds - instead it is all about preventing proper scrutiny of the most senior officials in Scotland's largest council.

  

Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council 
Carole Forrest LLB DipLP
Glasgow City Council
City Chambers 
George Square 
Glasgow G2 1DU 
DX GW572
Hand Deliveries to: 40 John Street Glasgow G1 1JL

Our Ref Your Ref
RQST6560146
13 April 2018

By email: markirvine@compuserve.com

Dear Mr Irvine

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

I refer to your email of 21 March 2018 which I am treating as a formal request for review of theCouncil’s failure to respond to your initial request for information dated 20 February 2018.

On behalf of the Council, I apologise that you did not receive a response to your initial request for information. You should have received a response within the 20 working day timescales set out in the Act and I apologise that on this occasion you did not. Unfortunately, due to pressures of business the Council was unable to respond to your request on time.

YOUR REQUEST

You requested the following information:

“1) Please provide me with a list of all the information held by Glasgow City Council regarding its Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR)?

2) Please provide me with a list of all the information regarding the WPBR which Glasgow City Council has destroyed since the pay scheme was first introduced in 2007?

3) Please explain the basis for destroying information given the Vital Records Policy of Glasgow City Council an extract of which is reproduced below?

'Preserving the Archival and Historic Memory of Glasgow':

"Paragraph 1.4 It cannot be emphasised strongly enough that we do not need to keep every

individual record. However, we need to identify and preserve as archives those records which:
  •   assist the Council and the public to scrutinise the decisions and activities of the Council and its partner services
  •   help satisfy the public interest in the decisions and actions of the Council and its partner services, which affected they lives and those of previous generations or shaped the development of Glasgow and areas of the former Strathclyde
  •   allow the community to retain and transfer knowledge, learn from past experience, and protect the interests of citizens collectively and individually
    "Paragraph 6.2 Records Documenting the Actions of Council Officials1
"Most records document the actions of the Council. The Archivist seeks to retain that portion containing significant documentation of Council activities and which are essential to understanding and evaluating Council actions. For example, the Archives retains permanently those records that document the basic organisational structure of the Council and its services and major organisational changes over time, policies and procedures that pertain yo a department's core functions, and key decisions and actions.

"Paragraph 7.2 Decision making

"To identify, create and capture records providing the Council and the public with best evidence of the deliberations, decisions and actions of Council and Council institutions relating to key functions, programmes and significant issues.

"EXAMPLES

 Meeting papers, including records that reveal the background to, and reasoning behind decisions and actions, for:
Council and committees (and predecessor authorities)
Boards and Board Committees of the various partnership organisations

Directors', Senior Management, Service/Function Management meetings, i.e. any meetings which are responsible for key functions, programmes and significant issues."

4)Please confirm the date/s on which specific information regarding the WPBR was destroyed?

5) Please confirm the name and job title of City Council officials who authorised the destructionof information regarding the WPBR?”

The Council emailed you on 21 and 27 March 2018 requesting clarification on the scope of your request, namely, (i) whether your request was for all WPBR information or information relating to the creation of WPBR; and (ii) whether you your request was for all such documentation or a list of the documentation that the Council holds.

You responded to the Council’s requests for clarification on 29 and 30 March 2018 and advised that your request “relates only to the creation of the WPBR” and that your request is for “a 'catalogue' of the information regarding the creation or development of the WPBR held by Glasgow City Council - and not actual copies of all the information held by the Council”.

THE REVIEW DECISION

I can confirm that the Council is treating your request for this information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. The Council’s response to your requests for informationare as follows:

1. Please provide me with a list of all the information held by Glasgow City Council regarding its Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR)?

In terms of Section 17(1) of the Act, I can advise that the Council is unable to provide you with the information requested above. This is because the Council does not hold the information nor does anyone else hold it on its behalf. I can confirm that the Council does hold informationrelating to the establishment of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (“WPBR”). However,it does not hold the information in the list format that you have requested. The Council is not obliged (nor is it a requirement) to collate a list of the information in the manner that you have requested. In terms of Section 1(4) of the Act, the Council is only required to disclose recorded information that it holds at the time of the information request.

The information that you have requested would require extensive manual searches to identify all the information held by the Council. It would be necessary to conduct searches across various Council departments.

In addition, it is likely that the information would have been created pre-2007 so it would be necessary to search both archived and open files. Each document would need to be reviewed in order to determine whether it falls within the remit of your request. Once the information had been collated and identified, a Council officer would be required to then create a list of the information.

I am of the view that the overall cost of providing this information would exceed the upper costs limit prescribed by the Freedom of Information (Fees for Required Disclosure) (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (currently £600). We would therefore be required to refuse your request in terms of Section 12(1) of the Act on the basis that compliance with the request would cause the Council to incur excessive costs.

2. Please provide me with a list of all the information regarding the WPBR which Glasgow City Council has destroyed since the pay scheme was first introduced in 2007?

In terms of Section 17(1) of the Act, I can advise that the Council is unable to provide you with the information requested above. This is because the Council does not hold the information nor does anyone else hold it on its behalf. As explained at paragraph 1 above, the Council is only required to disclose recorded information that it holds at the time of the request.

As there no list of information relating to the establishment of WPBR it is not possible to identify what, if any, information has been destroyed. By way of advice and assistance, the Council’sRecords Retention and Disposal Schedule can be found here:

https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=40660&p=0

3. Please explain the basis for destroying information given the Vital Records Policy of Glasgow City Council an extract of which is reproduced below?

I note the points that you have raised in your request in relation to the ‘Vital Records Policy of Glasgow City Council’. However, as explained above, you are entitled to make a request for recorded information that the Council holds at the time of your request. I can confirm that the Council does not hold the information requested above nor does anyone else hold it on its behalf. Accordingly, this part of your request is refused in terms of Section 17(1) of the Act.
  1. Please confirm the date/s on which specific information regarding the WPBR was destroyed?
  2. Please confirm the name and job title of City Council officials who authorised the destruction of information regarding the WPBR?
In relation to your request for information at paragraphs 4 and 5 above, I can confirm that the Council does not hold the information requested nor does anyone else hold it on its behalf.

Accordingly, this part of your request is refused in terms of Section 17(1) of the Act. As noted at paragraph 2 above, the Council does not keep a list of WPBR information that has been destroyed since 2007. Therefore we are not able to determine what, if any, information has been destroyed. Consequently, we are not able to confirm dates that specific information was destroyed or if any Council officer authorised the destruction of said information.

If you require further clarification or are not satisfied with this response, please e-mail me at FOIreviews@glasgow.gov.uk and I will ensure that the substantive matter of your request is reviewed. For the avoidance of doubt, the opportunity to contact us for a substantive review is without prejudice to your right to appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner. We haveprovided the contact details for the Commissioner’s office below if you wish to make anapplication to them for a decision.

RIGHT OF APPEAL

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 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.

Yours sincerely


ANNEMARIE O’DONNELL
CHIEF EXECUTIVE

Shake-up set to make Glasgow City Council 'more open'
By Stewart Paterson @PatersonHT - Evening Times (31/10/17)


Susan Aitken

A SHAKE-UP of how Glasgow City Council comes to decisions, to make it as open and transparent as possible, is being planned.

The man charged with reviewing past decision of Labour run administrations, by new council leader Susan Aitken, has set out the remit of his Review of Governance.

The council said it wants to be “world class” in openness and transparency allowing the public, community groups and the media to be engaged in how the decision making process works.

Colin Mair, chief executive of the Improvement Service, has been appointed to lead the review and he will recommend changes for how councillors and officials go about their business.

The Evening Times revealed last month how Mr Mair would delve into previous decisions to uncover any practices that are considered out of step with the transparency aims of the new council administration.

His role has been dubbed a “transparency tsar” to remove any cloak of secrecy over decisions of the council that affect citizens.

Labour said it had no problems with its decisions being put under scrutiny.

He has now produced the proposed remit of his review which is to go before councillors this week for approval.

Mr Mair will also review the “whistleblowing” arrangements for council staff and the public to raise concerns.

In his report to councillors he said: “Given the financial challenges of the next five years, the administration is fully committed to engaging openly with communities of place and communities of interest in addressing the challenges and opportunities facing the city.”

“It wants the council’s decisions to be fully explained and for sufficient information to be available for citizens to challenge, or campaign against them, if they wish to do so.”

Mr Mair’s remit will be to “review past governance and decision making” and to learn lessons for the future.

He will advise on what structures the council should adopt to ensure it is open, transparent and geared up for community participation in the decision making process and open to scrutiny.

Mr Mair will also make recommendations to councillors and council officials on their role and relationship and responsibilities.

He said he will examine the council’s communication methods with the public and the media and how open it is.

It is proposed that an all party group of councillors will oversee the review and a final report by Mr Mair will be submitted to the full council for approval.

He will hold face to face meetings with community groups, voluntary organisations, businesses and the media to gather suggestions and recommendations.

He said there will be a social media platform set up to allow the public to raise their individual concerns and to make their own suggestions for how the council can improve.