[email addresses redacted]
Information about Executive Team pay increases
19:43 (13 hours ago)
Dear FOI Kid,
I forward this email to you as an insight into the ICO's own handling of FOI requests it receives for potentially embarrassing information.
Full disclosure of my interest in the matter:
I am unionised member of staff at the ICO about to be on strike about poor pay increases in the context of significant executive pay increases. The union (PCS) made a request for information about the stated "extra duties" justifying extra pay, which the ICO mishandled (first failing to respond, then failing to find information until internal review).
The upshot is that the ICO Data Protection conference may take place during a strike by over half its staff.
I hope the emails are informative about the ICO's ability to comply with its own legislation.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: [name and email redacted]>
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 12:44 PM
Subject: FW: PCS: Information about Executive Team pay increases
To: [name and email redacted]
From: [name redacted]
Sent: 19 February 2015 11:10
Subject: PCS: Information about Executive Team pay increases
Please see below for the internal review response PCS has received regarding our requests for information about the Executive Team (ET) pay increases of 8-18% (average 11%). The information disclosed to PCS is attached.
The information speaks for itself, but PCS notes the following:
· The correspondence between the Commissioner and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in June/July 2014 demonstrates the Commissioner was able to hand these huge increases to ET members with only minor, informal queries being raised by the MOJ. Meanwhile, PCS members are told there is no room for manoeuvre with the MOJ or Treasury when it comes to our pay.
· No additional duties were given to the Deputy Commissioners to justify their increases of 8.5% and 18.5% respectively. Graham Smith explicitly confirms this in one email. The explanations the Commissioner provided to the MOJ about the ‘additional responsibilities’ largely relate to the ICO’s general organisational duties and tasks which are actually performed by ordinary staff and PCS members, rather than the Deputy Commissioners themselves.
· The Commissioner refers to the effects of the two year pay freeze and further two year 1% pay cap when explaining why he considers it necessary to increase David Smith’s pay by 18.5%. All staff have had their pay frozen and capped in the same way.
· When the Commissioner informed the MOJ of the changes to the Level H salary range (from £52-85k to £70-100k), he said: “This is for negotiation with the recognised unions as part of the pay architecture debate”. However, in reality he did not negotiate, the changes were made secretly, and he only informed PCS after the event. He has since refused to discuss this change with unions and has claimed all responsibility for determining ET pay lies with the Remuneration Committee only.
· The day after PCS had announced a car park meeting to coincide with the visit of Simon Hughes MP in September, the Commissioner wrote to Mr Hughes to offer a “heads up” on the ET pay rises.
· In response to request 2 for details of the additional responsibilities for the Deputy Commissioners, the only information held is a series of internal exchanges discussing how to explain the pay rises to staff and PCS.
Timeline of the request
PCS first requested this information on 5 November 2014 and it has taken until now for it to be disclosed. The Commissioner responded to PCS twice without providing any recorded information, and the information was only disclosed at the internal review stage. Please see below for details.
FOI request - response to internal review
Sent: 18 February 2015 16:57
To: [name redacted]
Subject: Internal review of FOI request of 05 November 2014
Dear [name redacted]
Your request for an internal review of the handling of your information requests of 05 November 2014 has been passed to me to undertake. I have carefully considered all the relevant information, including your requests, and the comments you made when you asked for an internal review. I have reached the following findings.
Please provide us with details of the ‘appropriate agreement’ from MoJ relating to the original ICO pay remit, including: the ICO’s case put to MoJ for significant increase to ET pay; the rationale for MoJ accepting; a copy of any recorded information relating to the issue.
The ICO’s response of 21 January 2015 stated that there was no recorded information held in relation to this request. Having considered your comments, and the context in which the request was made, I have taken the reference to the ‘appropriate agreement’ to be wider than just any formal agreement to the ET pay increases received from the MoJ, and to include any recorded information by which the MoJ was kept in the picture on this matter. On this basis I have identified the following recorded information that falls within the scope of your request:
The majority of the information above has been disclosed (please see attached). However some information has been withheld under section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). I have given the reasons for my decision below.
The emails between Christopher Graham and Simon James include details of; the new salaries of the Deputy Chief Executive Officer and the two Deputy Commissioners of the ICO, the percentage pay rises they were each awarded in July 2014, and the pre-rise salaries of the two Deputy Commissioners, which is the personal data of these data subjects. This information has been disclosed to you because I found that to do so would be fair to the data subjects and would not contravene any of the data protection principles. In reaching this decision I considered whether the disclosure was necessary to meet the legitimate interests of the public, in understanding the justification for the 2014 pay rises and the circumstances in which they were awarded, in the context of the pay cap on public sector increases set by the Government. I found that it was. I considered whether the legitimate interests of the public could be met in a way which was less prejudicial to the rights freedoms or legitimate interests of the data subjects, but found that it could not, and that therefore the prejudice to the rights, freedoms or legitimate interests of the data subjects related to this disclosure was warranted.
This email chain also reveals the exact salaries of the two Deputy Commissioners prior to the pre-rise figure that has been disclosed, and dating back to 2006, together with the percentage rises they received in this period. Again this is the personal data of the Deputy Commissioners. I considered that it would be unfair to the data subjects to disclose this historic exact salary information and that this would therefore contravene the first data protection principle. In reaching this conclusion I considered whether the disclosure of this historic salary information was necessary to meet the legitimate interests of the public in understanding the justification for the 2014 pay rises and the circumstances in which they were awarded, and found that it was not. I considered that the public could understand the reasons behind the 2014 pay rises without needing to know historic exact salary levels dating back to 2006 and that therefore the prejudice to the rights, freedoms or legitimate interests of the data subjects that would be caused by disclosing this information would not be warranted. I have therefore withheld this information under section 40(2) of FOIA by virtue of section 40(3)(a)(i).
The information that has been redacted from the email briefing Simon Hughes has been removed as it is outside the scope of your request, not because it is considered to be exempt information.
Please provide precise details of the alleged additional responsibilities of the Deputy Commissioners
The ICO’s response of 21 January 2015 stated that there was no recorded information held by the ICO in relation to this request. Having considered your comments and the context in which the request was made I have considered your request to cover any recorded information about the additional duties of the Deputy Commissioners as referenced in the Commissioner’s letter to the PCS of 01 October 2014. I have identified the following recorded information that falls within the scope of your request:
· An extract from an email from Christopher Graham to members of the Remuneration Committee, dated 26 June 2014
· An extract from an email from Christopher Graham to ET members, dated 06 September 2014
All this information has been disclosed to you (see attached). No information falling within the scope of this request has been withheld as exempt.
In identifying the information held by the ICO in relation to this request I can confirm that I reviewed all the possible repositories of information that you suggested when you requested your internal review.
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the review you may make a section 50 complaint to the ICO.
How to complain
Information on how to complain is available on the ICO website at:
By post: If your supporting evidence is in hard copy, you can fill in the Word version of our complaint form, print it out and post it to us with your supporting evidence. A printable Freedom of Information Act complaints form is available from the ICO website. Please send to:
Case Reception Unit
First Contact Team
Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House
Cheshire SK9 5AF
By email: If all your supporting evidence is available electronically, you can fill in our online complaint form. Important: information included in the form, and any supporting evidence will be sent to us by email.
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