Dear Oxford City Council,

1. Can you provide a list of all the businesses and organisations which have received money from Oxford City Council as a result of covid funding/grants?

2. For each business and organisation which has received covid funding please detail how much the sum of money was and if has to be repaid. If it has to be repaid please detail the arrangements.

3. Can you list any business and organisation that has received covid funding which Oxford City councilors or officers have a financial or any other interest in?

Yours faithfully,

Pat Mastelotto

freedomofinformation, Oxford City Council

Dear Pat Mastelotto,

Oxford City Council – Reference: 10031

Thank you for your email below. Your request was received on 12th April 2021 and you will be sent a response within 20 working days (of receipt) in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000/ Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), subject to the information not being exempt or containing reference to a third party.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recognises the unprecedented challenges all are facing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In particular they understand that resources, whether they are finances or people, may be diverted away from usual compliance or information rights work. Whilst the ICO can’t extend statutory timescales, they will not be penalising public authorities for prioritising other areas or adapting their usual approach during this extraordinary period.

Therefore while the Council will make every effort to comply with the Statutory Requirements you may experience understandable delays when making information rights requests during the pandemic.

Yours sincerely

Kathryn Winfield
Information Governance Requests Officer

Kathryn Winfield | Information Governance Requests Officer | Oxford City Council | Law and Governance | St. Aldate's Chambers | Oxford | OX1 1DS | Email: [email address] | T: 01865 252007
My working days are Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Stop the virus from spreading. Keep Oxford safe.
Follow the guidance: Clean hands. Wear a face mask. Keep your distance. Get tested if you have symptoms.

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

freedomofinformation, Oxford City Council

Dear Pat Mastelotto,
 
Oxford City Council – Reference: 10031
 
Further to the acknowledgement below, I can respond to your Freedom of
Information Act 2000 request received on 12th  April 2021 as follows:
 
In issuing our response the Council has applied S31 (1)(a) Law Enforcement
Exemption of the Freedom of Information Act.
 
Information is exempt if its release would, or would be likely to
prejudice any of the general law enforcement activities.
Section 31 of the FOIA creates an exemption from the right to know if
releasing the information would or would be likely to prejudice:  the
prevention or detection of crime;
 
Under s.1 (1) (a) of the FOIA, I can confirm that the Council does hold
information relating to the grant payments.  However, I consider it to be
exempt from disclosure under Section  31(1)(a) – Law enforcement.  The
exemption is applied to withhold the details of businesses/organisations
who have received the grants, because disclosure of this information would
be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime.  I
consider that there is a legitimate risk that fraudsters could use this
information to identify the business entities that were entitled to claim
grants on their accounts and attempt to obtain funds illegally.  This
exposure outweighs the public interest in the Council sharing such
details.  Furthermore, the cost implications to the Council and public
purse are an unjustified consequence.  Although the Council already
follows a robust verification procedure to process grant submissions, it
does not want the process compromised or result in additional checking
exercises being required.  Were a fraudulent claim to be successful, it
would require significant resource to rectify.    
 
Public Interest test
 
Section 31 is a qualified exemption, and so, even if disclosure would be
likely to prejudice one of the law enforcement activities or purposes, a
public authority must still consider whether the public interest in
maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the
information. The test must be applied on a case-by-case basis to the
information actually requested.  I have therefore applied the public
interest test under section 2(2)(b) FOIA i.e. notwithstanding this
exemption, is there a greater public interest in providing the information
or in maintaining the exemption?  This test requires me to consider
whether the public interest in disclosure outweighs the importance of the
prevention of crime.
 
In applying the public interest test I have considered the Guidance issued
by the Information Commissioner. I am aware of the possible benefit of
releasing the information but the public interest balance in this instance
is clearly in favour of crime prevention as I believe that the disclosure
of the information could lead to funds being obtained fraudulently. Claims
that are made fraudulently would require resources, time and money to
investigate and prosecute, taking funds away from other service areas.
 
Based on the above, it is the council’s view that there is a stronger
public interest to maintain the use of the exemption for section 31. The
key reasons for this is as follows:
 
The council feels the factors in favour of withholding the information
outweigh those in favour of publication. A realistic outcome/consequence
of releasing this information would be that the Council would be subject
to fraudulent grant claims.
 
If you disagree with any part of the response to your request, you are
entitled to ask the Council for an internal review of the decision(s)
made.  You may do this by writing to the Monitoring Officer, by either
email – [email address] – or by post to Monitoring Officer, Oxford
City Council, St Aldate’s Chambers, St Aldate’s, Oxford, OX1 1DS.  After
the result of the internal review, if you remain dissatisfied, you may ask
the Information Commissioner to intervene on your behalf.  You may do this
by writing to the Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Kathryn Winfield
Information Governance Requests Officer
 
Kathryn Winfield | Information Governance Requests Officer | Oxford City
Council | Law and Governance | St. Aldate's Chambers | Oxford | OX1 1DS |
Email: [email address] | T: 01865 252007
My working days are Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays
 
Stop the virus from spreading. Keep Oxford safe.
Follow the guidance: Clean hands. Wear a face mask. Keep your distance.
Get tested if you have symptoms.
 
 
 
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Oxford City Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Oxford City Council's handling of my FOI request 'Covid grants'.

How is it possible to have no scrutiny of how public money has been allocated? This is open to abuse by the Council and their cronies.

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

Yours faithfully,

Pat Mastelotto

Dear freedomofinformation,

Further to my request for an internal review, my understanding is that local authorities are obliged to release the information I requested:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk...

Grants to voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations
42.Local authorities must publish details of all grants to voluntary, community and social
enterprise organisations. This can be achieved by either:
 tagging and hence specifically identifying transactions which relate to voluntary,
community and social enterprise organisations within published data on
expenditure over £500 or published procurement information, or
 by publishing a separate list or register.
19
43.For each identified grant, the following information must be published as a minimum:
 date the grant was awarded
 time period for which the grant has been given
 local authority department which awarded the grant
 beneficiary
 beneficiary’s registration number36
 summary of the purpose of the grant, and
 amount

Yours sincerely,

Pat Mastelotto

GRIFFITHS Emma, Oxford City Council

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr Mastelotto,

 

I have been asked by Susan Sale, the Council's Head of Law and Governance
and Monitoring Officer to deal with your request for an internal review in
relation to your request for information under the Freedom of Information
Act 2000 (FOI 10031).

 

On 12 April 2021 you submitted a request for information under the Freedom
of Information Act 2021 (FOI 10031):

 

“1. Can you provide a list of all the businesses and organisations which
have received money from Oxford City Council as a result of covid
funding/grants?

 

2. For each business and organisation which has received covid funding
please detail how much the sum of money was and if has to be repaid. If it
has to be repaid please detail the arrangements.

 

3. Can you list any  business and organisation that has received covid
funding which Oxford City councilors or officers have a financial or any
other interest in?”

 

My colleague Kathryn Winfield responded to your request on 5 May 2021 as
follows:

 

“Further to the acknowledgement below, I can respond to your Freedom of
Information Act 2000 request received on 12th  April 2021 as follows:

 

In issuing our response the Council has applied S31 (1)(a) Law Enforcement
Exemption of the Freedom of Information Act.

Information is exempt if its release would, or would be likely to
prejudice any of the general law enforcement activities.

Section 31 of the FOIA creates an exemption from the right to know if
releasing the information would or would be likely to prejudice:  the
prevention or detection of crime;

 

Under s.1 (1) (a) of the FOIA, I can confirm that the Council does hold
information relating to the grant payments.  However, I consider it to be
exempt from disclosure under Section  31(1)(a) – Law enforcement.  The
exemption is applied to withhold the details of businesses/organisations
who have received the grants, because disclosure of this information would
be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime.  I
consider that there is a legitimate risk that fraudsters could use this
information to identify the business entities that were entitled to claim
grants on their accounts and attempt to obtain funds illegally.  This
exposure outweighs the public interest in the Council sharing such
details.  Furthermore, the cost implications to the Council and public
purse are an unjustified consequence.  Although the Council already
follows a robust verification procedure to process grant submissions, it
does not want the process compromised or result in additional checking
exercises being required.  Were a fraudulent claim to be successful, it
would require significant resource to rectify.    

 

Public Interest test

 

Section 31 is a qualified exemption, and so, even if disclosure would be
likely to prejudice one of the law enforcement activities or purposes, a
public authority must still consider whether the public interest in
maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the
information. The test must be applied on a case-by-case basis to the
information actually requested.  I have therefore applied the public
interest test under section 2(2)(b) FOIA i.e. notwithstanding this
exemption, is there a greater public interest in providing the information
or in maintaining the exemption?  This test requires me to consider
whether the public interest in disclosure outweighs the importance of the
prevention of crime.

In applying the public interest test I have considered the Guidance issued
by the Information Commissioner. I am aware of the possible benefit of
releasing the information but the public interest balance in this instance
is clearly in favour of crime prevention as I believe that the disclosure
of the information could lead to funds being obtained fraudulently. Claims
that are made fraudulently would require resources, time and money to
investigate and prosecute, taking funds away from other service areas.

 

Based on the above, it is the council’s view that there is a stronger
public interest to maintain the use of the exemption for section 31. The
key reasons for this is as follows:

 

The council feels the factors in favour of withholding the information
outweigh those in favour of publication. A realistic outcome/consequence
of releasing this information would be that the Council would be subject
to fraudulent grant claims.

 

If you disagree with any part of the response to your request, you are
entitled to ask the Council for an internal review of the decision(s)
made.  You may do this by writing to the Monitoring Officer, by either
email – [1][email address] – or by post to Monitoring Officer, Oxford
City Council, St Aldate’s Chambers, St Aldate’s, Oxford, OX1 1DS.  After
the result of the internal review, if you remain dissatisfied, you may ask
the Information Commissioner to intervene on your behalf.  You may do this
by writing to the Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.”

 

On 8 May you wrote again to the Council:

 

“I am writing to request an internal review of Oxford City Council's
handling of my FOI request 'Covid grants'.

 

How is it possible to have no scrutiny of how public money has been
allocated? This is open to abuse by the Council and their cronies.”

 

I have considered your request for information and the Council’s response
that has been provided to you in relation to FOI 10031. I am sorry that it
has taken so long to conduct the Internal Review. I have found that the
Council was correct to cite the exemption under section 31(1) and that the
exemption under 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the Act”)
can also be applied.

 

Under s31 (1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 there is a “law
enforcement” exemption which provides that information is exempt
information if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice
various law enforcement purposes including preventing crime, administering
justice, and collecting tax. There is a real risk that releasing the grant
information that you requested could invite fraudulent or criminal
activity. I have further considered the public interest test in relation
to the application of the exemption in s.31(1) and consider that the
public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public
interest arguments in favour of publication. A realistic
outcome/consequence of releasing this information would be that the
Council would be subject to fraudulent grant claims.

 

The Council can also rely on the exemption under section 43 of the Act
which provides that information may be withheld if its disclosure under
the Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests
of any person (including the public authority holding it). I consider that
any information about the application or receipt of a hardship grant by
any organisation is commercially sensitive as it may indicate the
financial standing/viability of the organisation concerned and, therefore,
risks putting businesses/charities at a potential financial disadvantage.

 

Since section 43 is a qualified exemption I have considered the public
interest test under section 2(2)(b) which involves balancing the public
interest in providing the information against maintaining the exemption.

 

I have considered the Awareness Guidance No. 5 and the Annexe to the
Guidance issued by the Information Commissioner and have concluded that
the public interest is weighted in favour of maintaining the exemption as
the information about the application for/receipt of a hardship grant is
confidential and commercially sensitive to the Council and the applicant.
It is also in the wider public interest of general commercial stability to
protect information on hardship relief awards. In the circumstances, the
public interest in maintaining the exemption is considered to be greater
than the public interest in the information being disclosed.

 

I hope that this information is helpful.

 

If you are not satisfied with this response you may ask the Information
Commissioner to intervene on your behalf. You may do this by writing to
the Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire,
SK9 5AF.

 

Yours sincerely,

Emma Griffiths

For and on behalf of Susan Sale, Head of Law & Governance and Monitoring
Officer, Oxford City Council

 

Emma Griffiths | Lawyer | Law & Governance | Oxford City Council | St
Aldate's Chambers | St Aldate’s | Oxford OX1 1DS | DX 4309 Oxford 1 |
01865 252208 (POST POINT SAC 3.8)

 

Service of documents by email is accepted at
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marked ‘SERVICE’.  Service by fax is not accepted.

 

Stop the virus from spreading. Keep Oxford safe.

Follow the guidance: Clean hands. Wear a face mask. Keep your distance.
Get tested if you have symptoms.

 

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0017112 / 00674845

 

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Dear GRIFFITHS Emma,

Thank you for your response.

Will this information be eligible to be released at any time in the future, say five or ten years, when the arguments you have used will no longer be valid?

What mechanisms are in place to ensure that that since any grants are not open to public scrutiny there has been no abuse of the money by the Council.

How many grants that the been handed out are currently under investigation for possible fraud?

Yours sincerely,

Pat Mastelotto

GRIFFITHS Emma, Oxford City Council



Thank you for your email.

My usual working days are Monday - Thursday, mornings only.

I am unavailable until Tuesday 10 August 2021 and will be in touch as soon
as possible after that.

For urgent enquiries please contact our support team -
Law&[email address] (01865 252027)

Kind regards,

Emma.

GRIFFITHS Emma, Oxford City Council

Dear Mr Mastelotto,
Thank you for your email.
Your questions have been forwarded to the relevant Council departments since they do not fall within the remit of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. You should expect to hear from my colleagues directly.
Kind regards,
Emma

Emma Griffiths | Lawyer | Law & Governance | Oxford City Council | St Aldate's Chambers | St Aldate's | Oxford OX1 1DS | DX 4309 Oxford 1 | 01865 252208 (POST POINT SAC 3.8)

Service of documents by email is accepted at [email address] only. The subject header must be marked 'SERVICE'.  Service by fax is not accepted.

Stop the virus from spreading. Keep Oxford safe.
Follow the guidance: Clean hands. Wear a face mask. Keep your distance. Get tested if you have symptoms.
 
     

0017112 / 00678130

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Oxford City Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Oxford City Council's handling of my FOI request 'Covid grants'.

In your response of 10 August you said that my questions have been forwarded to the relevant departments and to expect a response directly.

I have not received a response yet or attempted to be contacted by the relevant department.

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

Yours faithfully,

Pat Mastelotto

freedomofinformation, Oxford City Council

Dear Pat Mastelotto,

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your email below. Please be advised that this has been passed to the relevant Manager.

Yours sincerely,

Joyce Fagan
Information Governance Requests Officer

Joyce Fagan | Information Governance Requests Officer | Oxford City Council | Law and Governance | St. Aldate's Chambers | Oxford | OX1 1DS |  
Email: [email address]  T: 01865 252 425

Stop the virus from spreading. Keep Oxford safe.
Follow the guidance: Clean hands. Wear a face mask. Keep your distance. Get tested if you have symptoms.

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Oxford City Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Oxford City Council's handling of my FOI request 'Covid grants'.

I have not yet received a response.

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

Yours faithfully,

Pat Mastelotto