Details of number of Local Authority or Housing Association buildings covered by large-scale tests

Dear Department for Communities and Local Government,

On your Grenfell Tower website, https://www.gov.uk/government/collection..., you refer to a number of announcements about the results of the large-scale tests you have conducted following the Grenfell Tower fire.

The announcements for the polyethylene core (Category 3) tests give the number of Local Authority or Housing Association buildings that are know to have this type of construction (47 and 90 for the two types of insulation), in addition to the total numbers of buildings known (82 and 111 respectively).

For the mineral core (Category 1) tests, you say no buildings are know to have this construction, and I assume that means neither private nor LA or HA have this construction.

However, for the fire-retardent core (Category 2) you only provide the total number of buildings known to have this construction (13, 22 and 13 for the three types of insulation).

Would you please:

(1) Confirm that the "no buildings known" for Category 1 refers to both private and 'public' housing.

(2) Provide the numbers of Local Authority or Housing Association owned or managed buildings that have each type of insulation with Category 2 ACM cladding.

(3) If the sum of the numbers is not the same as the 173 social housing buildings, 89 private residential buildings and 85 that have failed and 4 that have passed mentioned in Sajid Javid's statement on 5 September 2017, please provide an explanation of the differences.

You clearly have these figures as they go to make up the numbers reported by Javid.

Yours faithfully,

Tim

Despatch Box, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

                            
Our reference: 3491555             Information request

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Despatch Box, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

                            
Our reference: 3491555             Information request

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Dear Tim,
 
Freedom of Information Act 2000
 
Thank you for contacting us on 21 September 2017 requesting:
 
On your Grenfell Tower website,
https://www.gov.uk/government/collection..., you refer to a
number of announcements about the results of the large-scale tests you
have conducted following the Grenfell Tower fire.

The announcements for the polyethylene core (Category 3) tests give the
number of Local Authority or Housing Association buildings that are know
to have this type of construction (47 and 90 for the two types of
insulation), in addition to the total numbers of buildings known (82 and
111 respectively).

For the mineral core (Category 1) tests, you say no buildings are know to
have this construction, and I assume that means neither private nor LA or
HA have this construction.

However, for the fire-retardent core (Category 2) you only provide the
total number of buildings known to have this construction (13, 22 and 13
for the three types of insulation).

Would you please:

(1) Confirm that the "no buildings known" for Category 1 refers to both
private and 'public' housing.

(2) Provide the numbers of Local Authority or Housing Association owned or
managed buildings that have each type of insulation with Category 2 ACM
cladding.

(3) If the sum of the numbers is not the same as the 173 social housing
buildings, 89 private residential buildings and 85 that have failed and 4
that have passed mentioned in Sajid Javid's statement on 5 September 2017,
please provide an explanation of the differences.
 
We are dealing with your request under the Freedom of Information Act
2000 and aim to send you a response by 19 October 2017.
 
If you have any questions, please ask by return email. Please leave the
subject line unchanged when replying, to make sure your email gets
straight to us.
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
DCLG FOIA Team
 
 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.

Dear Despatch Box,

This was a really simple request. Most of the figures have already been published so you probably already have all the information to hand. In addition, several statements by Sajid Javid have contained a variety of these figures in different combinations.

As you will know you are obliged by law to respond promptly. This does not mean that you are allowed to wait for 20 working days in a case like this where very little information is requested and the information is very simple. So this is the first way you have broken the law.

You said you would respond by 19 October, which was the limit of the delay you are allowed by law, for a complicated request. You have failed to meet your self imposed deadline, and have failed to respond by the statutory limit. This is the second way you have broken the law.

I think it is an absolute disgrace that you have still not responded now, fully a week after you said you would respond.

Could you please explain why you have failed in your statutory duty, and give me a full response to my original questions.

Incidentally, I will expect your response to reconcile all the figures that Sajid Javid has give in his latest statement to the select committee. I will not accept this expectation giving you any reason for any further delay in responding to my request.

Yours sincerely,

Tim

Despatch Box, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Dear Tim
 
Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying to you. We hope to
be able to send you a response shortly.
 
 
DCLG FOI Team

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Dear Despatch Box,

This was a really simple request. Most of the figures have already been
published so you probably already have all the information to hand. In
addition, several statements by Sajid Javid have contained a variety of
these figures in different combinations.

As you will know you are obliged by law to respond promptly. This does not
mean that you are allowed to wait for 20 working days in a case like this
where very little information is requested and the information is very
simple. So this is the first way you have broken the law.

You said you would respond by 19 October, which was the limit of the delay
you are allowed by law, for a complicated request. You have failed to meet
your self imposed deadline, and have failed to respond by the statutory
limit. This is the second way you have broken the law.

I think it is an absolute disgrace that you have still not responded now,
fully a week after you said you would respond.

Could you please explain why you have failed in your statutory duty, and
give me a full response to my original questions.

Incidentally, I will expect your response to reconcile all the figures
that Sajid Javid has give in his latest statement to the select committee.
I will not accept this expectation giving you any reason for any further
delay in responding to my request.

Yours sincerely,

Tim

show quoted sections

Despatch Box, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

1 Attachment

                            
Our reference: 3491555             Information request

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Dear Sir/Madam
 
Thank you for your request for information. Please find our response
attached.
Knowledge and Information Access Team
Department for Communities and Local Government

 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.

Dear Department for Communities and Local Government,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Communities and Local Government's handling of my FOI request 'Details of number of Local Authority or Housing Association buildings covered by large-scale tests'.

Your response is, in my opinion, both absurd and shows lack of good faith in dealing with my enquiry.

In your announcements of the Fire Test Reports you have already published a breakdown of 241 buildings with ACM cladding:

Cat 1 ACM with combustible insulation 0 buildings
Cat 1 ACM with mineral wool insulation 0 buildings
Cat 2 ACM with combustible insulation 13 buildings
Cat 2 ACM with phenolic insulation 22 buildings
Cat 2 ACM with mineral wool insulation 13 buildings
Cat 3 ACM with combustible insulation 82 buildings of which 47 LA or HA owned/managed
Cat 3 ACM with mineral wool insulation 111 buildings of which 90 LA or HA owned/managed.

A total of 241 buildings.

In the “Government Building Safety Programme – update and consolidated advice for building owners following large scale testing” dated 5 Sept 2017 at paragraph 23 you give a different set of figures:

Cat 1 ACM with combustible insulation 0 buildings
Cat 1 ACM with mineral wool insulation 0 buildings
Cat 2 ACM with combustible insulation 8 buildings
Cat 2 ACM with phenolic insulation 21 buildings
Cat 2 ACM with mineral wool insulation 12 buildings
Cat 3 ACM with combustible insulation 81 buildings
Cat 3 ACM with mineral wool insulation 107 buildings

A total of 229 buildings. Total Cat 2 41. Total Cat 3 188

There is no explanation as to why these figures differ from those in the Fire Test Reports.

In the “Government Building Safety Programme – update and consolidated advice for building owners following large scale testing” dated 5 Sept 2017 at paragraph 28 you give a different set of figures:

Tests 4,5 and 6 Pass (these must all be Test 4 Cat 2 with mineral wool insulation since there are no Cat 1 buildings mentioned) total 12 buildings (as opposed to 13 in the Fire Test reports)

Total of 278 buildings, Total Cat 2 52. Total Cat 3 226.

These figures are completely different from those in paragraph 23, and also from those in the Fire Test Reports, but again there is no explanation as to why they are different.

In the Secretary of State’s letter to the select committee dated 18 October 2017, you say 274 residential and public buildings with ACM cladding in England of which 262 are unlikely to meet current guidance, of which 161 are social housing. This is a decrease in the number of buildings since the consolidated update, again with no explanation, either in the statement or from you subsequently.

So, is the total number of buildings 241, 229, 278 or 274, or some other number. Is the number of buildings that fail 228, 266, or 262, or some other number.

I asked you to account for the differences, and all you said was ”Any differences with previous numbers are likely to be the result of further inspections”. “Likely is not an adequate answer. I expect you to be much more precise, for example to be able to say exactly what dates the totals are accurate to. You seem to have a very cavalier attitude about possible lives at risk.

What makes your refusal to come clean about the numbers so absurd is that you have already provided quite detailed breakdowns of the numbers of buildings in various categories, and with various combinations of different ACM and insulation. For example, the Fire Safety Reports breaks down tests 1 and 2 by total and LA/HA, but not tests 3, 7 and 4. The figures in paragraph 28 for the update and consolidated advice give an even more detailed breakdown of the buildings by building type, but not for the various types of insulation.

So, what I would now like is for you to expand the table in paragraph 28 of the update and consolidated advice to provide separate columns for each combination of ACM and insulation, viz:

Cat 2 ACM with combustible insulation (test 3)
Cat 2 ACM with phenolic insulation (test 7)
Cat 2 ACM with mineral wool insulation (test 4)
Cat 3 ACM with combustible insulation (test 1)
Cat 3 ACM with mineral wool insulation (test 2)
(and any other categories that are relevant),

and to give the numbers of social housing, public buildings, Private: residential and private: student residential in each case.

I would also like you to provide separate table for the other parts of the UK, since the table only cover England, although you apparently have information about the other parts of the UK.

I cannot see any conceivable reason why some parts of the breakdown of buildings should be exempt, but not other parts. I cannot see any conceivable reason why the different types of buildings should relate to the formulation of government policy, nor why some information should be available at some point in time but not at others.

I believe you have handled this request with a lack of good faith both because of the lack of rationality in the information you have chosen to withhold, and also because you have delayed so long in making any response, far beyond your legal obligation, and then you have failed to give me any answer at all.

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

Yours faithfully,

Tim

Despatch Box, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

                            
Our reference: 3491555             Information request

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Dear Mr Tim
 
Internal review under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
 
Thank you for your request for a review received on 30 November 2017. I am
sorry that you are dissatisfied with our attempts to handle your request
under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
 
I am considering your concerns and will aim to provide you with a response
by 3 January 2018.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Anna Canning
FOI Business Partner 
 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.

Despatch Box, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

1 Attachment

                            
Our reference: 3491555             Information request

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Please find attached my response to your request for an internal review of
our handling of your Freedom of Information request.
 
Your sincerely,
 
Anna Canning
 
Knowledge and Information Access
Department for Communities and Local Government
 
 
NOTE: Please do not edit the subject line when replying to this email.

Tim left an annotation ()

I want to know details of the breakdown of ACM cladding buildings by both cladding and insulation type and building tenure.

DCLG have published in https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio... a summary of numbers by cladding and insulation type, and a summary of numbers by tenure. But they have not provided details of both breakdowns together. For example, how many public building have ACM category 3 and Foam Insulation.

Basically, they have refused my request.

(1) They say that they were misleading in explaining the differences in published data. Actually they said the differences were ‘likely’ due to different dates. This is not unclear - the wording means they have not bothered to determine the reasons for the differences, but have just assumed that it is due to differences in dates. They then say the reason was “a valid explanation for differences”. It is not acceptable to be imprecise. Either the differences in dates was THE explanation, or there was another explanation. I requested a detailed explanation of the differences and they should have provided that. They must surely have kept records of how the numbers have changed over time.

(2) DCLG refused to provide the information as “as they considered this information to be exempt under section 35(1)(a) of the FOI Act relating to the formulation and development of government policy.”.

Following my appeal, they say “For information to be withheld under this exemption the public interest must favour non-disclosure”. They have not provided any evidence as to how this was the case.

(3) Following my appeal they say “However, the testing process is ongoing and there is a greater public interest in ensuring that the work is completed without hindrance or outside interference so that informed decisions can be made about policy development. For the Department to prepare the breakdown of information requested outside any planned publication would divert resource from this work and may lead to information being released which had not been fully considered. This would not be in the public interest. Therefore I agree with the FOI team’s assertion that at the time of your request it was not in the public interest to disclose this information.”

“Hinderance or outside interference” is an insulting and wholly unwarranted slur on a legitimate FOI request. That is simply not how FOI requests are supposed to work.

“Diverting resources” is simply not an acceptable reason for failing to meet an FOI request. That is not what the law says.

“information being released which had not been fully considered” is simply not true. They had provided (different) summary figures several times as well as on 18 December, which clearly had been derived from more detailed figures, so there was nothing to ‘fully consider’. They had already released the summary figures.

(4) They say the refusal was “correct at the time of the request”. Nothing has changed in terms of section 35(1)(a) exemption, indeed they do not provide anything to support this exemption, but instead go on to mention other data releases, and the ongoing nature of the programme. If the data is released on 18 December (which was not actually the data I requested), then it could have been released at the time of my original request.

(5) Following my appeal they say the data release of 18 December https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio... provides the information I requested, but it does not, because it only provides summary breakdowns of number of buildings by cladding/insulation, and by tenure, but not details of the two together.

(6) They say “The DCLG FOI team did not respond within this time frame and as such were in breach of section 10(1) of the Act. Please accept our apologies for this.” It is simply not acceptable to treat such a simple FOI request in such a cavalier manner, and the DCLG should be severely censured for their failure.

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