Thursday, 19 April 2018

Glasgow - FOI, Senior Officials and Equal Pay



Glasgow's senior officials have been at the heart of the fight for equal pay in the City Council going all the way back to 2005, but throughout these years they have failed to protect the interests of the Council's lowest paid, predominantly female, workers.

First of all, they presided over a discriminatory pay system based on big bonus payments for traditional male jobs which excluded the jobs done predominantly by women.

Secondly, after initially denying that Glasgow had a real problem with 'unequal' pay, officials drew up a scheme to 'buy-out' the women's equal pay claims on the cheap - by imposing a maximum compensation figure of just £9,000.

Lots of Council employees accepted because they had been kept in the dark about the size of the pay gap between male and female dominated jobs and didn't understand what their equal pay claims were really worth.

Thirdly, senior officials drew up another pay scheme with the help of an external consultant which they dubbed the WPBR (Workforce Pay and Benefits Review), but  after a lengthy legal battle the WPBR was condemned as 'unfit for purpose' by the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court.

Fourthly, Glasgow officials are now refusing to disclose full details about the WPBR because they say that to do so would cost the City Council more than £600.

But they haven't always been so 'tight' or careful with public money - not by a long chalk - because in 2010/11 the City Council awarded its former chief solicitor (Ian Drummond) 'added years' which boosted his pension package by around £250,000.  

And in response to a separate FOI request (see below) the Council has confirmed that the former Executive Director of Finance, Lynn Brown, in September 2016 had £120,079 paid into the Local Government Pension Scheme to allow for the early release of her pension rights.

Now the Council does not explain the details or background to this payment, but what it comes down to is that in order to release the senior official's pension early - the Council had to contribute an additional £120,079 into the pension pot which seems a remarkably generous thing to do, if you ask me.

I plan now to submit a further FOI request to ask who recommended and/or authorised this because it sits rather oddly with the refusal of Glasgow's senior officials to release details of the WPBR on the grounds of cost.

Dear Mr Irvine,

Freedom Of Information  Request


I refer to your Freedom of Information Request dated 21 March 2018, wherein you asked that certain information be supplied to you, namely :-

“I refer to the Annual Accounts of Glasgow City Council for the year to 31 March 2017 and, specifically, to Paragraph 5.2 (Page 131) which deals with the pension benefits of senior council employees.

1) Please explain the basis of the £134,147 employer pension contribution paid in respect of the Executive Director of Finance, Lynn Brown? I note the figure increased to £134,147 in 2017 from £26,116 in 2016.

2) Please confirm whether this payment was made in respect of 'added years' and what impact this payment had on the Executive Director's pension benefits?

3) Please provide a copy of the council correspondence or the official council report which recommended that the Executive Director should be awarded 'added years'.

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

The information you have requested is as follows :

1) Please explain the basis of the £134,147 employer pension contribution paid in respect of the Executive Director of Finance, Lynn Brown? I note the figure increased to £134,147 in 2017 from £26,116 in 2016.

Ø  The sum of £134,147 as quoted in the annual accounts comprised of £14,068 employer contributions before the Executive Director of Finance retired on 30 September 2016 and £120,079 as a one off payment to the Local Government Pension Scheme as recompense for the early release of pension rights

2) Please confirm whether this payment was made in respect of 'added years' and what impact this payment had on the Executive Director's pension benefits?

Ø  The executive Director of Finance, Lynn Brown was not awarded “added years”

3) Please provide a copy of the council correspondence or the official council report which recommended that the Executive Director should be awarded 'added years'.

Ø  Not applicable

The Council accordingly feels that it has complied in full with your request.  However, if you feel that this is not the case or have any questions relating to information contained within the spreadsheet, I can be contacted at the noted e-mail address or on telephone number 0141-287-8186.

However, should you be 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 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
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:

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 its decision. Details of how to request a review are set out in the above paragraph “Right of Review”.

Yours sincerely,


John Dickson
Executive Compliance Officer
Financial Services

Glasgow - FOI, Senior Officials and Equal Pay (14/04/18)



Here is my latest FOI review request to Glasgow City Council which for some reason is proving extremely reluctant to explain the process by which a senior official was given a big boost to his 'eye watering' leaving package of more than £450,000. 

Now someone had to recommend or authorise the award of these 'added years' which were worth an extra £33,000 to the senior official's pension lump sum and and additional £11,000 a year to his annual pension.

So who made this decision on the Council's behalf - could this have been done by another senior council official?

If so, this is all getting to look a little too cosy.

If you ask me, senior officials should not be able to award one of their own work colleagues such a massive 'bonus' to their leaving package - which in this case amounted to an additional, discretionary sum of around £250,000.

The same group of officials are now arguing that the equal pay claims of thousands of low paid staff are worth 'chickenfeed' - a tiny fraction of what A4ES, GMB and Unison say that the claimants are entitled to expect. 

The City Council has 20 days to respond to my FOI Review Request which will take us up to 2 May 2018 - so watch this space.  

April 4 2018

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

Dear Ms Forrest

FOISA Review Request 

I refer to the letter from Glasgow City Council dated 21 March 2018 responding my FOI request of 27 February 2018.

am am dissatisfied with the council's response and would like to submit an FOI Review Request for the following reasons.

1) The Council's response states that Committee reports do not refer to individuals and goes on to say that:

"Mr Drummond was released, along with many other employees, under the arrangements detailed in the 2009 Committee report."

2) Now this is correct, but only up to a point because Mr Drummond's leaving package was boosted by the award of 'added years' up to the maximum of six and two thirds years (6 and 2/3) which is the most an employee can receive.

3) Because the Revised Policy Statement on 'discretions' which you kindly provided me with states as follows at Paragraph (b) (ii):

"in respect of early leavers over 50 years with access to a pension, in circumstances of voluntary redundancy/early retirement the Council may award up to 6 and two thirds years...."

4) So I would like to know who authorised the additional boost to Mr Drummond's pension  of 6 and two thirds added years because the key word in Paragraph (b) (ii) is "MAY" (my emphasis) - whereas under Paragraph (b) (iii) of the Council policy document the standard award of 'added years' is limited to just four years?

5) I would also be grateful if you could confirm how many other senior staff were permitted to leave the Council's employment under the terms of Paragraph (b) (iii) which contained the proviso that:

"individual release dates would be determined by the Service and could be at any time over the period concluding on 31st March 2013

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

Kind regards



Mark Irvine

  

Glasgow's Low Paid Workers Get 'Capped' - Council Boss Cops £250,000 Pay 'Bonus' (15/06/17)



Glasgow City Council have suddenly backtracked on the previous decision to refuse my FoI request regarding the payment of 'added years' to boost a senior official's leaving package. 

After registering an appeal with the Scottish Information Commissioner, the City Council wrote to me in the following terms:  

Mr Irvine,

I refer to your recent Freedom of Information request to the Council regarding Mr Drummond’s leaving package. We have received correspondence from the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner advising us that you have requested a decision from them on this matter.

Your request for review stated that you were looking for “a review of the City Council's refusal to answer Part 3 of my original FOI request in which I asked whether Mr Drummond's remuneration package included any discretionary benefits such as 'added years' in respect of the Local Government Pension Scheme”. We advised you in our letter of 7th April 2017 that we considered the information that you were looking for constituted personal data and as such, was exempt in terms of s38(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. For the reasons set out in the Council’s review decision letter, we did not consider that you had a legitimate interest in obtaining the data.

Although Mr Drummond no longer works for the Council, we have been able to contact him to ask whether he would prepared to give consent to the release of the information you have requested. The Council recognises that personal data may be released if consent is provided by the data subject to do so. Mr Drummond has now consented to release of the information requested to you. 


Accordingly, please note that Ian Drummond received added years to his pension. Due to his age and length of service, this was on the basis of 6 and 2/3rds “added years” to his pension, in line with the Committee Report calculation (attached). 

This calculation was applied to all staff who left at this time. The Annual accounts previously sent to you show that Mr Drummond received £109,000 “compensation for loss of office”. This figure comprises a £33,000 enhanced lump sum from the added years plus £76,000 redundancy payment. 

There is an £11,000 per annum addition to Mr Drummond’s pension arising from the added years calculation. No payments for loss of office were made to Mr Drummond beyond the standard formula set out in the policy, i.e. maximum 6 2/3 added years (applied to the calculation of both the lump sum and the annual pension) plus maximum 30 weeks’ pay as a redundancy lump sum as Mr Drummond was aged over 50 and had access to his pension.  

Please note that election payments (made to Mr Drummond as a result of the then chief executive being on long term sickness absence following a heart attack) are not pensionable and did not give rise to any additional payment of either pension, lump sum, or redundancy payment.

I trust this answers the query posed in your request for review.

Regards,


FOI Review Team

So the upshot is that Mr Drummond did receive a big boost to his pension plan - in the shape of an extra £33,000 by way of a lump sum plus another £11,000 a year on top of his annual pension payment.

Now this is an extra, 'discretionary' payment remember - and it should be compared to the way low paid council employees are treated, often after a lifetime's work in Glasgow's essential front-line services.

In fact, if you make the not reasonable assumption that Mr Drummond will draw his pension for another 20 years, the extra boost to his pension is worth at least £253,000 - i.e. 20 years x £11,000 (£220,000) + £33,000 = £253,000.

But what really gets my goat is that this Labour-run council placed a 'cap' or ceiling on the equal pay settlements of the Council's lowest paid workers back in 2005 - the most anyone received was just £9,000 which meant thousands of people were 'duped' into accepting much less than their claims were really worth.

As regular readers know, the local trade unions were involved in negotiating this unfair cap on people's settlements, yet they now try to claim credit for fighting the 'good fight' over equal pay. 

Shameless to the end, the unions then made light of of their terrible track record and tried to tempt A4ES clients to go back to them once the Court of Session ruled that Glasgow's equal pay claimants had been unfairly treated and badly let down. 

Give me a break, please! 

Because the reality is that Glasgow City Council and the local trade unions worked together to ensure that '1st Wave' equal pay settlements were much lower than the real value of people's claims in the run-up to Christmas 2005.

In 2006 they also agreed to give special treatment to all of the 'red circled', former bonus earning, traditional male jobs when the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review was introduced - without first of all bringing women's pay into line with the men, a hugely significant point that was highlighted in the recent judgment from the Court of Session.

So if you ask me, the Labour Council bosses and the spineless Labour trade unions should all be thoroughly ashamed of their behaviour.

   

Glasgow and Equal Pay (26/05/17)


The Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) invited me to make a further submission in respect of my appeal against Glasgow City Council's refusal to explain whether one of its senior officials had his leaving package boosted with 'added years'.

Here's what I had to say along with a previous post explaining the background to my original FoI request.

Dear SIC

Thank you for your letter dated 10 May 2017.

In my view Glasgow City Council does not have a valid reason for refusing my request, not least because much of this information has already been released with the disclosure that Mr Drummond received a remuneration package worth £462,555 in the year ended 31 March 2011.

According to the Council the figure of £462,555 comprised of £211,000 in accrued pension benefits plus £251,555 in Salary Fees and Allowances, Compensation for Loss of Office and Election Duties.

My FoI request in respect of 'added years' does not affect the figures already released into the public domain and the issue comes down to whether or not the Council used its powers to provide Mr Drummond's leaving package with a further financial boost using public funds.      

I believe I have a legitimate interest in the City Council's use of public money as a taxpayer, especially when government at all levels (both local and national) have been operating on tight budgets.

In 2005 Glasgow City Council 'capped' equal pay settlement offers to thousands of low paid women workers at a maximum of £9,000 even though their employees claims were worth considerably more than £9,000. Mr Drummond was the City Council's chief legal officer at that time.

In my view the public has a right to know whether or not the City Council was especially generous to one of its senior officials and if so, the reasons for someone at the top of the organisation receiving more favourable treatment than the 'foot-soldiers' at the bottom of the pay ladder. 

I cannot see how the release of this information can be detrimental to Mr Drummond in any way since the decision to award 'added years' or not lay with the City Council - not Mr Drummond himself.

For these reasons and those detailed in my original submission I would ask the Scottish Information Commissioner to uphold my appeal.  

Kind regards



Mark Irvine


    


Glasgow and Equal Pay (20/04/17)


I said in a recent post that I would be submitting an appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) over Glasgow City Council's refusal to confirm whether a senior official's leaving package benefited from 'added years'. 

So here is my letter of appeal to SIC and if you ask me, the City Council has a real cheek in refusing to disclose this information.

I suspect the answer is that when it comes to boosting people's pensions with 'added years' senior officials are treated more generously than the council's foot-soldiers, but let's see what SIC has to say.    

  


 10 April 2017

Dear Ms Agnew

Glasgow City Council (GCC) – FOISA Appeal

I enclose an exchange of correspondence with Glasgow City Council (GCC) regarding a FOISA enquiry I initiated with the council on 15 February 2017. 

I asked for a review of GCC’s initial response on 16 March 2017, but I am dissatisfied with the council's answer and refusal to provide me with the information I requested regarding a senior official's leaving package. 

I would, therefore, like to register an appeal with the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) for the following reasons: 
  1. The information I requested relates to GCC as an employer and, specifically, the council's ability to use its discretionary powers to award extra 'added years' to boost the value of an employee's leaving package.
  2. An employer's decision to use its discretion in this way represents a cost to the public purse - one which is borne by the council alone and not the individual employee.
  3. In its response to my Review Request, the council raises a number of 'red herring' points about 'employee contributions' and 'opting into or out of the scheme', but these are completely bogus arguments because they have no bearing on the employer's ability, or otherwise, to award 'added years'. 
  4. I reject the council's assertion that I do not have a legitimate interest in the matter. As a publicly minded citizen and Glasgow council tax payer, I believe I am perfectly entitled to know how Scotland's largest council is spending public funds.
  5. I also believe that the council has a duty to ensure that its most senior, highly paid officials are not treated any more favourably than other council employees.
  6. If GCC did not award 'added years' to this official's leaving package, then the council should have answered 'No' in its initial response and the matter would simply have ended there.
  7. If GCC had any genuine concern about an employee's personal data, the council should have answered "Yes, Mr Drummond' was awarded 'X' number of added years to his leaving package, but we decline to provide further details as we believe this information constitutes personal data" - leaving the matter open to a further appeal (by me) to the Scottish Information Commissioner.
  8. Instead GCC has chosen to obfuscate and conceal whether or not its powers of discretion were used in the case of its Executive Director of Corporate Services who was, I believe, the author of the original 'redundancy and retirement' report. 
  9. In my view, GCC does not have a legitimate reason for withholding this information and I suspect the real motive behind its refusal to answer this particular aspect of my FoI request is a desire to shield the council from criticism over its use 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 by e-mail at markirvine@compuserve.com

Kind regards



Mark Irvine 

List of enclosures x 4

1 Original FOISA request to GCC dated 15 February 2017
2 Initial response from GCC dated 15 March 2009
3 Review Request letter to GCC dated 16 March 2017
4 Final response letter from GCCC dated 7 April 2017

Glasgow - FOI, Senior Officials and Equal Pay



Here's an FOI request I submitted to Glasgow City Council back in March 2018 - the Council has now responded and their answer makes for very interesting reading.

More to follow soon - so watch this space.

21 March 2018


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. 

I refer to the Annual Accounts of Glasgow City Council for the year to 31 March 2017 and, specifically, to Paragraph 5.2 (Page 131) which deals with the pension benefits of senior council employees.

1) Please explain the basis of the £134,147 employer pension contribution paid in respect of the Executive Director of Finance, Lynn Brown? I note the figure increased to £134,147 in 2017 from £26,116 in 2016.

2) Please confirm whether this payment was made in respect of 'added years' and what impact this payment had on the Executive Director's pension benefits?

3) Please provide a copy of the council correspondence or the official council report which recommended that the Executive Director should be awarded 'added years'.

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 


  

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Bring Me Sunshine



The latest update from Stefan Cross on the ongoing settlement talks with Glasgow City Council is the most positive there's been since these meetings began, but I would echo Stefan's note of cautious optimism.

Because after all this time there's still no sign that council officials or the council's political leaders are really committed to addressing the big issues which are:

  1. Compensating claimants properly for 11 years (and counting) of the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR
  2. Replacing the WPBR with new pay arrangements which are open, transparent and command the support of the council's largely female workforce

In previous settlement talks with North Lanarkshire Council and South Lanarkshire Council, for example, negotiations were tough and required compromise, but there was never any doubt that a settlement agreement was possible and desirable on both sides.

In Glasgow things have been very different, so far at least.

Because senior officials are reluctant to accept the scale of the problem and the need to replace the WPBR - while Glasgow's councillors have been adopting a 'hands-off' approach which means the settlement process lacks a real sense of purpose and direction.

So in the next 5 weeks, in the run-up to 22 May, we need to re-double our efforts at getting the claimants' message across and not just to Glasgow's councillors, but to the City's MSPs and MPs as well.

Elected councillors have a crucial and key role to play, although they are part of a wider political network which is where Glasgow's MSPs and MPs come in, as I can't see the City Council financing a comprehensive settlement agreement without help from the Scottish Government, in relation to additional borrowing powers for example.

If the political will is there, I have no doubt an agreement can be reached, in principle, by the summer.

The task ahead is to persuade Glasgow's politicians that the fight for equal pay in Scotland's largest council must move much higher up their political agenda.

  

AT LAST A RAY OF SUNSHINE 


Meeting 10 with the council was a much more positive affair than the last few meetings. It seems that the first signs of spring have managed to thaw the chilly attitude of the officers, at least a little. For once we didn’t spend 2 hours on the minutes. 

The council agreed that there were only 2 items. Our proposal to resolve matters and their threatened imposition of an interim payment.

We were pleased the council seemed to take things seriously. They brought along 2 extra folk from finance to hear our presentation and ask questions. More importantly there was no immediate hostile reaction and the council agreed to respond by 14th May in a considered and professional way. We can only hope this approach continues and we can finally engage in meaningful discussions.

On the imposition of a dodgy interim payment there was again a marked change of tack and mood. They told us that they had met with the political group and they had been instructed to make a formal offer which they understood we were likely to reject and then the politicians would reconsider.

However it was clear that the proposal which they had threatened was going to be revised. This will be their third attempt at this. But this time they have promised to send us not only a proposal but actual numbers and calculations. They promised this twice before but didn’t deliver. They also agreed that we would be given time to consider the proposal and respond. Again this is a positive development as it means we can engage with them.

Our priority remains to try and deal with the total claim not get diverted and waste time and resources on a puny and potentially divisive “interim payment”.

This is just my impression but I got the feeling the officers didn’t get what they wanted from the politicians and this offer and rejection manoeuvring is a bit of face saving for the officers. My take is that your continued lobbying of the leadership is critical and working. Not at the pace or extent that we want but moving in the right direction and preventing officers from riding roughshod over the process. We need to keep it up.

Please note the timings involved here. We are not getting their interim payment suggestions until 1st May. The next meeting with the council after that is not until 22nd May. That will be the next important meeting. So we will not have a lot to report for the next 5 weeks. So patience, please.

In the meantime both GMB and UNISON will be conducting consultative ballots to gauge the appetite for strikes. It’s really important as many people as possible take part. Just a word of caution. There are 11000 claimants. That’s only 1/4 of people who could claim. There are only 1600 in the equal pay facebook group and they’re not all claimants, so only 1/10th ish of claimants are in the group. Strike action needs as many on board as possible not just the folk with strong views on this group. To get a good response to the ballots means you’ll need to bring your friends and colleagues on board.

Anyway let’s hope the spring thaw leads to a summer settlement.


Stefan Cross