Barnet Borough Council pension fund

AR made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Barnet Borough Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Roedd y cais yn rhannol lwyddiannus.

Dear Barnet Borough Council,

I would like to request the following information:

1) The full details of what the Barnet Borough Council Pension Fund currently invests in, including the name and amounts of each asset class or investment being held.

Ideally this information would be broken down into the different categories, including: Index Linked Securities, Unit trust Property, Cash Instruments, Unit Trust Equities, Infrastructure, Fixed Interest Securities, Equities Segregated Unlisted, Equities Segregated UK, Equities Segregated Foreign as well as any other investments that the Pension Fund holds.

2) A full list of all the companies which the Pension Fund currently invests in (this should be covered in the above question). This list should include the names of each company and
the amount invested in each company.

3) The current yields of the different investments the pension fund holds.

4) Can you clearly specify the total value of all investments that the Pension Fund holds.

5) I would like to receive this information in an unlocked excel sheet without protext cells (.xls). If you have to password protect the excel sheet, can you also provide the password to the excel sheet.

I would like to receive the information in electronic format if possible. If one part of the request can be answered sooner than others, please send that information first followed by any
subsequent data. If you need further clarification, please contact me by email.

Many public authorities release their contracts, minutes and other information of interactions with private vendors in line with the Freedom of Information Act. The exemption for commercial interest under the Act (section 43) is a qualified exemption, which means information can only be withheld if it is in the public's interest. The public have an interest in knowing what the Pension Fund is investing in, the terms of contracts and the minutes of meeting with public authorities, whether or not public money changes hands immediately.

If you are relying on section 41 (the exemption for legal breach of confidence) then I would like to know the following:

* When these confidentially agreements were agreed
* All correspondence and email in which these confidentiality agreements were discussed
* The precise wording of the confidentiality agreements.

I ask these questions because guidance issued by both the Lord Chancellor (draft guidance on FOI implementation) and the Office of Government Commerce (Model terms and conditions for goods and services) specifically state that public authorities should not enter into these types of agreements; they go directly against the spirit of the laws of disclosure. I would also point to the Information Commissioner's guidance on accepting blanket commercial confidentiality agreements: 'Unless confidentiality clauses are necessary or reasonable, there is a real risk that, in the event of a complaint, the Commissioner would order disclosure in any case.'(i)

Finally, within the law of confidence these is also a public interest test. Therefore, the information should be disclosed in full. If any parts are redacted they must be for information that can be proven to be a legal breach of confidence in court, and only then where secrecy can be shown to be in the public interest. These are difficult positions to argue when public money is at stake or where a public authority is offering a private company a monopoly to charge its stakeholders.

I reserve the right to appeal your decision to withhold any information or to charge excessive fees, and understand that under the act, I am entitled to a response within 20 working days. I
would be grateful if you could confirm in writing that you have received this request.

Yours faithfully,

AR

(i) 'Freedom of Information Awareness Guidance 5: Commercial Interests' Office of the Information Commissioner, Page 10,
http://www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/...

Freedom of Information Act, Barnet Borough Council

Dear AR,

Please provide your name,

Without this information your request is not valid and we are unable to process it.

Sincerely,

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

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Dear Freedom of Information Act,

My name is Adela Ryle

Yours sincerely,

Adela Ryle

 
Information request
Our reference: 620066

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

1 Atodiad

 
Information request
Our reference: 620066

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Dear Ms Ryle
 
Thank you for your request for information received on 2 January 2014.
 
Please find attached our response to your request.
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Jon Hill
Information Governance Officer
Information Management Team
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South,
London N11 1NP
Barnet Online: [1]www.barnet.gov.uk
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this email?
 

References

Visible links
1. http://www.barnet.gov.uk/

Dear Jon Hill,

Many thanks for your email, however the links you sent did not contain the full information I requested.

To make it clear, the kind of information I am requesting is similar to this from East Sussex County Council:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/1...

The above link has full details of all its investments in the different types of assets, including cash, property, equities, etc.

Ideally could you provide an excel spreadsheet with the information I requested, as East Sussex County Council has done previously?

If you are providing links to online documents, can you specify the direct links to those documents and the page numbers where that information can be found?

Yours sincerely,

Ms Ryle

 
Information request
Our reference: 620066

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Ms Ryle
 
Freedom of Information Act 2000
 
Thank you for your email. I have passed your queries on to our Treasury
Team and hope to provide you with a response on this soon.
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Jon Hill
Information Governance Officer
Information Management Team
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South,
London N11 1NP
Barnet Online: [1]www.barnet.gov.uk
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this email?
Dear Jon Hill,

Many thanks for your email, however the links you sent did not contain the
full information I requested.

To make it clear, the kind of information I am requesting is similar to
this from East Sussex County Council:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/1...

The above link has full details of all its investments in the different
types of assets, including cash, property, equities, etc.

Ideally could you provide an excel spreadsheet with the information I
requested, as East Sussex County Council has done previously?

If you are providing links to online documents, can you specify the direct
links to those documents and the page numbers where that information can
be found?

Yours sincerely,

Ms Ryle

References

Visible links
1. http://www.barnet.gov.uk/

 
Information request
Our reference: 620066

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Ms Ryle,
 
Freedom of Information Act 2000
Further to my email below, I have received the following response from our
Head of Treasury

We do not hold the portfolio breakdown in an excel format.  For this
reason we cannot provide the  information in a similar format to East
Sussex Council . All of our investments are in pooled funds, we do not own
individual shares.

In response to the information request, we showed the proportion of
investments in different share classes as this  is a fair representation
of the Pension Funds  share of the pooled investments held by the Fund
managers we were invested with as at 31 March 2013  as set  out in the
statement of accounts.

We would need to request the three fund managers to provide a snap shot of
the proportion of Barnet’s investment in pooled funds current stock
holding in an excel format to fulfil this request as this information is
not held by the Council.

I hope this clarifies the council's position on this matter.
Yours sincerely,
Jon Hill
Information Governance Officer
Information Management Team
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South,
London N11 1NP
Barnet Online: [1]www.barnet.gov.uk
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this email?
Information request
Our reference: 620066

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Ms Ryle
 
Freedom of Information Act 2000
 
Thank you for your email. I have passed your queries on to our Treasury
Team and hope to provide you with a response on this soon.
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Jon Hill
Information Governance Officer
Information Management Team
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South,
London N11 1NP
Barnet Online: [2]www.barnet.gov.uk
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this email?
Dear Jon Hill,

Many thanks for your email, however the links you sent did not contain the
full information I requested.

To make it clear, the kind of information I am requesting is similar to
this from East Sussex County Council:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/1...

The above link has full details of all its investments in the different
types of assets, including cash, property, equities, etc.

Ideally could you provide an excel spreadsheet with the information I
requested, as East Sussex County Council has done previously?

If you are providing links to online documents, can you specify the direct
links to those documents and the page numbers where that information can
be found?

Yours sincerely,

Ms Ryle

References

Visible links
1. http://www.barnet.gov.uk/
2. http://www.barnet.gov.uk/

Dear Jon Hill,

Many thanks for replying but I do not think you have still answered my original request. As I stated in my last email:

"If you are providing links to online documents, can you specify the direct links to those documents and the page numbers where that information can be found?"

Also, you say:

"We would need to request the three fund managers to provide a snap shot of the proportion of Barnet’s investment in pooled funds current stock holding in an excel format to fulfil this request as this information is not held by the Council."

Can you please do this, so you can provide information as close to that given by East Sussex County Council (whose example I gave before). If necessary I can provide examples of many other Local Authority pension funds which already publish their full investment data.

Please let me know soonest whether you will do this or not. If you wont, I will make a request for an internal review. If it needs to go to Internal review, please give me the chance to make detailed arguments on why the full information should be released.

Yours sincerely,

AR

Sarah Laws,

 
Information request
Our reference: 620066

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Dear Ms Ryle
 
Freedom of Information Act 2000
 
Thank you for your request for a review  I’m sorry to hear that you are
unhappy with the council’s response to your information request.
               
We will now conduct an internal review.  The review will be independent
and impartial, will reconsider the merits of the case, and will identify
any errors in the handling of your request.
 
We aim to complete internal reviews promptly and in any event within 20
working days from receipt of a complaint.  In exceptional cases we may
take longer, but we will not exceed 40 working days.  This is in line with
[1]guidance issued by the Information Commissioner.
 
If, following our review, you are still unhappy with the way we have
applied the Act, you can appeal directly to the Information Commissioner
at: The Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF (telephone: 08456 30 60 60 or 01625 54 57 45;
website: [2]www.ico.gov.uk). There is no charge for making an appeal.
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Sarah Laws
Information Governance Officer
Information Management Team
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South,
London N11 1NP
Barnet Online: [3]www.barnet.gov.uk
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References

Visible links
1. http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/l...
2. http://www.ico.gov.uk/
3. http://www.barnet.gov.uk/

Dear Sarah Laws, Barnet Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Barnet Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Barnet Borough Council pension fund'.

When conducting the internal review I would like you to consider the following arguments in favour of disclosure of the information I requested.

1) There are many local authority which already publish the details I am requesting for their respective pension funds on their websites. Here are some examples:

Norfolk Pension Fund:
https://www.norfolkpensionfund.org/pensi...

Staffordshire:
http://moderngov.staffordshire.gov.uk/do...

Greater Manchester Pension Fund (a fund which has a current market value around £11,760,179,071)
http://www.gmpf.org.uk/investments/holdi...

There are also many local authorities which have published the information I am requesting through previous Freedom of Information requests, some of which are public on whatdotheyknow.com while others have been held privately. I will give examples of some which have been made publicly (and if you request I can also provide you with at least 20 examples of other local authorities pension funds providing similar information privately).

East Sussex County Council:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/e...

West Sussex County Council:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/w...

Bedford Borough Council
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/b...

There are many more examples – which I can provide if you request - where local authority pension funds have released the information I requested through public FOI requests on the internet..

As so many other local authorities have already released the information I am requesting for their respective funds (either on their websites or through FOI requests), I think there is a very strong case for Barnet Borough Council to also disclosure similar information for their pension fund. This is especially the case because some of these other funds are much larger than Barnet Borough Council, such as the Greater Manchester Pension Fund.

2) In the decision against disclosure of the information I requested from Barnet Borough Council, I was told that Section 21 was being applied:

“I can confirm that we hold the information you requested. However, we are withholding some of that information since we consider that the following exemptions apply to it.

“We consider that the absolute exemption set out in Section 21 (Information accessible by other means) applies to the information requested because the information requested is already reasonably accessible elsewhere.”

While your reply provided some of the information I requested (especially pages 85-100 of the Statement of Accounts, Year ended 31 March 2013), you did not send the full details of how the Pension Fund invests. Specifically, I would like the full details of the market value of the amounts invested in the different instruments, asset classes and portfolio funds. Rather than a general overview, or only providing the biggest investments, I would like a detailed list of the Pension Funds current investments, much like the examples provided above.

3) I wanted to pre-empt potential refusal to release the full details based on arguments around commercial sensitivity.

Firstly, does Barnet Borough Council have any evidence that the local authority Pension Funds which I have mentioned have suffered commercial damage as a result of the full disclosure of their investments? If it can't, my understanding is that it cannot rely on the exemption.

Also, can Barnet Borough Council provide evidence that full disclosure of their own investments will actually damage commercial interests or prejudice the commercial interests of the fund managers? If it can't, my understanding is that it cannot rely on the exemption.

Also, is any such harm to commercial interests likely? Mr Justice Munby went some way to define what is meant by “likely” in the case R (on the application of Lord) v Secretary of State for the Home office [2003] EWHC 2073 (Admin). He said the word “likely”:

“connotates a degree of probability where there is a very significant and weighty chance of prejudice to the identified public interests. The degree of risk must be such that there 'may very well' be prejudice to those interests, even if the risk falls short of being more probable than not”

If Greater Manchester Pension Fund, which has holdings of around £11,760,179,071 (at current market value) - a fund which is several times the market value of Barnet Borough Council – can openly release on their website the information I am requesting due to the lack of commercial harm as well as the large public interest case in doing so, I think there is a very strong case for Barnet Borough Council to release similar information for their pension fund as any commercial harm will likely.be minimal and trivial.

4) I wanted to expand on the public interest case in releasing the information I requested. In Department of Health (DoH) v Information Commissioner (EA/2008/0018) the tribunal quoted advice produced by the Office for Government Commerce (now government Procurement Services) on transparency and public interest factors relating to procurement. It stated:

“There is a strong public interest in showing who public money is being spent with, how much public money is being spent on a particular service or good, and how the supplier arrived at the price that is being charged”

Information that helps the public evaluate and scrutinise government procurement decisions – such as the full investment information of Barnet Borough Council Pension Fund – is therefore likely to warrant disclosure.

There is a clear and compelling public interest in disclosing information about the spending – and investing - of public money and this is recognised by the Information Commissioner. In Freedom of information Act Awareness Guidance No 5, Commercial Interests, (Version 3, 6 March 2008) he states this “will be equally true whether a public authority is purchasing goods or services or responsible for awarding grants to private sector companies.”

The guidance note adds: “Transparency of decisions on how public funds are spent will also generate confidence in the integrity of the procedures involved. Where a public authority is purchasing goods or services there is a public interest in ensuring it gets value for money. This is particularly relevant at a time when there is public debate around the increasing role private companies have in delivering public services.”

As Barnet Borough Council hires private fund managers to oversee their Pension Fund, the above quote is very relevant. Moreover, there is also a public interest in disclosing some commercially sensitive information about private companies that is held by public authorities, especially when it would protect the public. The ICO states:

“In the course of its role as a regulator, a public authority may hold information on the quality of products or on the conduct of private companies. There would be strong public interest arguments in allowing access to information which would help protect the public from unsafe products or dubious practices, even though this might involve revealing information that is likely to harm the commercial interests of a company.”

Without the public knowing exactly how the Barnet Borough Council invests its money, how can the public judge whether “unsafe products” are being invested in or if “dubious practices” are taking place?

Finally, the Ministry of Justice's Freedom of Information exemptions guidance: Section 43 – Commercial interests (14 May 2008) provides general guidance as to when commercial information should be disclosed. Information should be released where disclosure would ensure:

“there is transparency in the accountability of public funds; there is proper scrutiny of government actions in carrying out licensing functions in accordance with published policy; public money is being used effectively and that departments are getting value for money, departments' commercial activities, including the procurement process, are conducted in an open and honest way.”

This clearly applies on many levels to Barnet Borough Council Pension Fund and further warrants the full disclosure of its current investments.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/b...

Yours faithfully,

Ms. Ryle

Sarah Laws,

6 Atodiad

 
Information request
Our reference: 620066

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Dear Ms Ryle
 
I write further to our email acknowledging your request for an internal
review into the handling of your request for information. 
 
I have undertaken the internal review and the outcome of my review
is attached.

Yours sincerely
 
 
Sarah Laws
Information Governance Officer
Information Management Team
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South,
London N11 1NP
Barnet Online: [1]www.barnet.gov.uk
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References

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1. http://www.barnet.gov.uk/

Gadawodd A Sacharow anodiad ()

The data for the newton pooled fund is missing! The spreadsheet uploaded is just a copy of the Schroder one!