Wednesday, 12 April 2017

What's the Big Secret, Glasgow?

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As regular readers know I submitted an FoI Review Request to Glasgow City Council over its refusal to confirm whether or not the 'leaving package' paid to a senior official contained 'added years'.

The significance of 'added years' is that they can provide a very significant boost to an employee's pension benefits, albeit at the discretion of their employer.

Now Glasgow City Council have refused to disclose this information (see letter below) which comes as no surprise to me at all though it does suggest that the top brass at the City Chambers have something to hide.

Could it be that senior council officials have received much more generous treatment than the ordinary foot soldiers?

As a member of the public and a Glasgow council tax payer I believe I'm entitled to know how the City Council spends public money.

I now suspect the Labour-run City Council has been extra generous to one of its most senior officials while being mean, spiteful and Scrooge-like to its lowest paid workers over equal pay. 

So I will be registering a further FoI appeal with the independent Scottish Information Commissioner and plan to share this post with all Glasgow MSPs and MPs, as well as the council's current leader, Frank McAveety.

Because when it comes to delivering equal pay the Labour Party in Glasgow has a whole lot to answer for, if you ask me.


 


Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council 
Carole Forrest LLB DipLP

Glasgow City Council

City Chambers
George Square
Glasgow G2 1DU
DX GW145


Dear Mr Irvine


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

Thank you for your email of 16th March 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 16th February 2017 for the following information:
“I would like to make the following request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
I refer to the article in TheTelegraphnewspaper dated 25 April 2012 which reported the remuneration package of Ian Drummond (in the previous year) as £450,628.

I understand that Mr Drummond left the City Council's employment in 2010-11 and that the figure of £450,628 will have represented a 'leaving package'.


I would be grateful if you could:
  1. Provide me with a breakdown of the £450,628 figure into its component parts, i.e annual salary, pension payments etc
  2. Explain the basis of the 'compensation for loss of office' payment and how this payment was calculated
  3. Confirm whether Mr Drummond's remuneration package benefited from any discretionary payments, e.g. 'added years' under the Local Government Pension Scheme”
THE DECISION

The Council emailed you on 3rd March 2017 and provided you with a response to your request for information. The content of the response is reproduced in the under-note for ease of reference.


YOUR REQUEST FOR REVIEW


On 16th March 2017 you emailed the Council requesting a formal review of the decision. Your review request is reproduced in the under-note for reference.


THE REVIEW DECISION

I have carried out a full and impartial review of the initial response provided to you with regards to the withheld information. I can confirm that I uphold the original decision to withhold certain non-publically available information. I refer you to Decision 139/2012 which held that disclosing information about income received by a living individual on their retirement would breach s38(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
In terms of the application of s38(1)(b) to the information you requested, the following points are noted:

1. Is the information requested personal data, as defined by the Data Protection Act 1998?


Section 1(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998 defines personal data as data which relates to a living individual who can be identified from that data or from other information in the possession of/likely to come into the possession of the data controller.


The Council is of the view that the information you have requested is personal data as it relates to income received by a living individual on retirement. The information clearly relates to a former employee of the Council and, in this context, would identify him as the request only relates to one individual.

  1. Would disclosure breach the first data protection principle?
    Disclosure of the withheld information would breach the first data protection principle. This requires that personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 to the DPA is met. The processing would be the requested release of the withheld information into the public domain.
  2. Schedule 2 of the Data Protections Act 1998
    For this matter, it appears that the most relevant condition of Schedule 2 is contained in paragraph 6 which permits processing if the processing is necessary for the ‘purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the data controller or by the third party or parties to whom the data are disclosed, except where the processing is unwarranted in any particular case by reason of prejudice to the rights and freedoms or legitimate interests of the data subject’.
    To assess whether paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 is met, the Council has considered whether you have a legitimate interest in obtaining the data.
    There is no specific definition of ‘legitimate interest’ in the Data Protection Act 1998. The SIC has noted in guidance that in ‘some cases, the legitimate interest might be personal to the applicant e.g. he or she might want the information in order to bring legal proceedings. With most requests, however, there are likely to be wider legitimate interests, such as the scrutiny of the actions of public bodies or public safety.’
    The SIC has previously noted that salaries are derived from public funds & as such, there is a potential for there to be a legitimate interest in them. However, the SIC has stated in Decision 139/2012 that information about occupational pension arrangements has a different nature. This is because ‘the value of an occupational pension is a product of contributions made by both an employee and their employer (and also, in the case of the scheme under consideration at least, receipts from invested funds), and the value of that pension will be a product of a range of factors, including the length of service and salary, but also decisions taken by the employee. For example, an employee may choose to opt in or out of a pension scheme; they might transfer contributions from the pension scheme of one employer to the scheme of another, or make additional voluntary contributions.’ Accordingly, there is no general legitimate interest in knowing the value of an individual’s pension.
    In your request for review, you said you considered that as ‘other aspects of Mr Drummond's remuneration package have been released, the same logic must apply to any discretionary payments agreed by the Council in respect of this employee’. I would notehowever, that information that has been released is in accordance with the CIPFA Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting.
As the Council does not consider you to have a legitimate interest, consideration is not given here as to:
  1. (a)  whether such disclosure is necessary to achieve these legitimate aims (i.e. if the disclosure is proportionate as a means and fairly balanced as to ends, or could these legitimate aims be achieved by means which interfere less with the privacy of the former employees); or
  2. (b)  whether the disclosure would cause unwarranted prejudice to the rights and freedoms or legitimate interests of the former employee.
Condition 6 has not been met and therefore, the Council regards disclosure of the withheld information as unlawful. Disclosure would breach the first data protection principle and as such, the initial decision to withhold this information is upheld.

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.


Yours sincerely




CAROLE FORREST
DIRECTOR OF GOVERNANCE AND SOLICITOR TO THE COUNCIL


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Under-note


FOI response dated 3rd March 2017

I refer to your Freedom of Information request received on 16 February 2017 requesting that the following information be provided to you:


“I understand that Mr Drummond left the City Council's employment in 2010-11 and that the figure of £450,628 will have represented a 'leaving package'.

I would be grateful if you could:

1. Provide me with a breakdown of the £450,628 figure into its component parts, i.e annual salary, pension payments etc


2. Explain the basis of the 'compensation for loss of office' payment and how this payment was calculated


3. Confirm whether Mr Drummond's remuneration package benefited from any discretionary payments, e.g. 'added years' under the Local Government Pension Scheme”


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


Please note, some of the information which you have requested is, in our opinion, exempt from a request under section 1 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 because of an exemption contained in s 38(1)(a) of the Act. In other words, in our opinion disclosure of the information would involve disclosure of personal data as defined by the Data Protection Act 1998 (as amended) and that such disclosure would breach the Data Protection Principles contained in Schedule 1 Part 1 of that Act. We are therefore unable to comply fully with your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.


The information which you have requested and which can be provided is as follows:


1. Provide me with a breakdown of the £450,628 figure into its component parts, i.e annual salary, pension payments etc


 Within the Councils 2010/11 annual accounts, as a Senior Officer, Mr Drummonds annual remuneration was detailed as follows:


4.3. Remuneration of senior employees - Year ended 31 March 2011
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Remuneration of senior employees
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Salary fees and allowances
Compensation for loss of office
Election duties
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Total
Ian Drummond
Executive Director of Corporate Services
(to December 2010)
and Executive Director of Special Projects
(from December 2010)
£ 132,051
£ 109,303
£ 10,201
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£ 251,555

Thereafter, within the annual accounts, as a Senior Officer Mr Drummond’s Pension Benefit’s were detailed as such:


5.2. Pension benefits of senior employees
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In year pension contributions
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Accrued pension benefits
Pension benefits of senior employees
For year to 31 March 2011
As at 31 March 2011
Ian Drummond
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£ 199,073
Pension - £ 56,000 Lump sum - £ 155,000



2. Explain the basis of the 'compensation for loss of office' payment and how this payment was calculated

 Please see attachment, detailing Council’s policy on redundancy and retirement provisions for the requested period, which was approved by the Executive Committee on 13 November 2009.


3. Confirm whether Mr Drummond's remuneration package benefited from any discretionary payments, e.g. 'added years' under the Local Government Pension Scheme”

 This request relates to personal information which is exempt in terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Request for review – 16th March 2017:


I would like to register a formal FOI Review Request in response to Glasgow City Council's refusal to provide me with information regarding Mr Ian Drummond's remuneration package upon leaving the City Council's employment in 2010-2011.


Specifically, I am seeking 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.


I do not agree that this information is exempt as personal information given Mr Drummond's position as one of the City Council's most senior officials. In my view, since other aspects of Mr Drummond's remuneration package have been released, the same logic must apply to any discretionary payments agreed by the Council in respect of this employee.


Furthermore, I believe this is especially important since Mr Drummond, as Executive Director of Corporate Services, appears to be the author of the report on 'discretionary redundancy and retirements payments' from which he seems to have benefited personally on leaving the City Council's employment.