FOI: Cost too high to get full council ‘bullying’ figures

A MYSTERY researcher looking at how local authorities deal with bullying cases has been told they won’t get all the info they are interested in from Camden because it would cost too much to find it. The unidentified FOI Act user recently asked the council the following questions:

  1. How may employees of your authority have made an official complaint of harassment and bullying at work since April 1, 2009?
  2. How many of these complaints were upheld in favour of the complainant?
  3. How many of those which were not upheld in favour of the complainant went on to appeal?
  4. How many of those that went to appeal were found to favour the complainant?
  5. How many complaints went on to an employment tribunal?
  6. How many of these were found to uphold the complaint?
  7. Out of how many of those allegations (the number given to question 1) did the complainant of bullying claim that the bullies were telling lies?
  8. How many staff does your authority have and what is the current population within your authority’s area?

The council wrote back and said the request was too big, and the only chance of getting it processed would be to remove the queries about employment tribunals. i.e. questions 5, 6, and 7. Officer time is billed at £25 per hour (that’s a salary of more than £40k a year) and once you go over the £450 limit, FOI requests are essentially blocked.

Such a response gets you thinking though. It would be dangerous to assume anything, of course, but if the Camden knew for certain that there had been no complaints of bullying at the Town Hall at all, and the workforce has been swimmingly happy in recent years, then the answers to all these questions would simply be nil, nil, nil etc to everything, and there would be no need to spend hours digging for the answers. They could complete the job in less than an hour. Instead, we are left wondering how fat the files they say they would need to sift through are.

The requester, using the What Do They Know website and identified only as ‘Yabootoyou’, had written: “This request is being made to make the public at large and people in each authority aware of which councils are the worst offenders
or the better examples when it comes to bullying in the workplace. All councils have very similar anti-bullying / dignity at work policies, but there seems to be a difference in the level of bullying. This is intended to statistically show those differences.”

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