The investigation into payments of bonuses at Birmingham City Council has revealed that the council saved ?5.5million in bonus payments between 2008 and 2009 – while a handful of employees were still being awarded annual bonuses of over ?20,000A Freedom of Information request to the council found:
- The council paid out almost ?9.4million in bonuses in 2007/08 – but ?3.8m in 2008/09 – a reduction of almost 60%
- The top 5 bonuses paid in each year are relatively unchanged. In 07/08 they ranged from ?22,000-?26,000 – the following year the range was ?20,000-?26,000
- Over 1,000 council employees received bonuses – although this dropped by around 9%, from 1,106 to 1,008
- The average bonus received dropped from ?8,485 to ?3,772
Following an internal review, the council have decided not to say which employees received the highest bonuses, as "its disclosure would contravene any of the data protection principles in the Data Protection Act 1998 and various Health and Safety Acts as this would infringe on the private lives of individuals"Notably, the same decision indicates that the top bonuses were not paid to "senior officers/directors". The council say of the current financial year:
"Following the implementation of the new contracts of employment and the pay and grading review, Birmingham City Council have now removed all bonus schemes from the current financial year. Accordingly, whilst bonuses were paid for the previous years, there are now no bonus schemes in place and thus, no requirement for measures to be implemented to regulated bonuses."
Meanwhile, Dudley have refused to release any information following a similar FOI request, claiming:
- "The totals relating to bonus payments made to employees will be published in the public domain in the very near future"
- "Information requested, at this time, constitutes substantive information fundamental to the progress and final outcome of the Equal Pay Claim cases that the Council is currently engaged with. The information is a key part of the discussion and that its disclosure at this stage of the proceedings would inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and the free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation.
- "During the course of legal proceedings, the qualified person believes that, the release of any information relating to this matter at this stage would prejudice the ability of officers and others (including the court) to provide/obtain advice and to openly discuss the Equal Pay Claims. This is particularly relevant as litigation is ongoing."
- "Disclosure of the information at this stage of proceedings may lead to more time having to be used to defend or re-examine cases that are already before the court.
- "The Council maintains that at this time, disclosure of the requested information would undermine the lawyer-client relationship in addition to prejudicing its legal position regarding the subject of bonus payments and Equal Pay Claims."
The legal objection appears counter-intuitive. Any advice on this front most welcome.