DfE relationship with New Schools Network

The request was partially successful.

Clifford Singer

Dear Sir or Madam,

DfE relationship with New Schools Network

1) Please send me a copy of the business case with costings presented to the DfE by the New Schools Network (referred to in your letter here: http://bit.ly/9ziO9o )

2) Please declare whether tenders were sought from other organisations for providing these services.

3) Please confirm whether you assessed the NSN's funders to ensure that there was no possibility of a conflict of interest with the DfE's work (eg to establish that none of the funders had a commercial interest in promoting free schools). If so, please supply a list of NSN's funders.

Many thanks for your help.

Yours faithfully,

Clifford Singer

Department for Education

Dear Mr Singer

Thank you for your recent email. A reply will be sent to you as soon as
possible. For information, the departmental standard for correspondence
received is that responses should be sent within 20 working days as you
are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number
2010/0051083.

Thank you.

Central Allocation Team

Public Communications Team

Tel: 0870 0002288
www.education.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Clifford Singer

Dear Department for Education,

I am writing concerning my correspondence of 6 July 2010 (your ref 2010/0051083).

By law you should have responded promptly - and by 5 August 2010 at the latest.

You are now in breach of this and I would be grateful for a response asap.

Thank you for your help.

Clifford Singer

Clifford Singer

Dear Department for Education,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Education's handling of my FOI request 'DfE relationship with New Schools Network' (your ref: 2010/0051083).

I sent a request by email on 6 July 2010 and received a reply on 7 July stating that I should receive a response within 20 working days in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Since then I have heard nothing. I sent a reminder on 6 August but received no reply to that either.

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

Thank you for your help.

Yours faithfully,

Clifford Singer

Clifford Singer

FAO Kevin Ahern

Dear Mr Ahern

Your ref: 2010/0051083

Thank you for speaking to me today and on Tues 17 Aug.

As discussed I am very anxious to get a response without further delay as it is now more than two weeks since the date by which a response should have been given (5 Aug).

Kind regards

Clifford Singer

Dear Department for Education,

I would like to know what has happened to my Freedom of Information request (ref 2010/0051083), which is now more than 40 days' overdue.

In addition I have had no response to my request for an internal inquiry.

I have referred this matter to the Information Commissioner.

Yours faithfully,

Clifford Singer

Department for Education

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Singer,
Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 12 July
2010. I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act
2000 (the Act).

The Department very much regrets the delay in responding to your request.

You requested:

"DfE relationship with the New Schools Network (NSN):

1) Please send me a copy of the business case with costings presented to
the DfE by the NSN (referred to in your letter here: http://bit.ly/9ziO9o
).

2) Please declare whether tenders were sought from other organisations
for providing these services.

3) Please confirm whether you assessed the NSN's funders to ensure that
there was no possibility of a conflict of interest with the DfE's work (eg
to establish that none of the funders had a commercial interest in
promoting free schools). If so, please supply a list of NSN's funders."

In relation to your first point, a copy of the information we are
disclosing is enclosed - specifically the business case referred to in
Mela Watts' letter of 18 June 2010 to Rachel Wolf.

Certain information has been redacted from the business case as it is
exempt from disclosure under section 43(2) of the Act because disclosure
would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any
person. Section 43 of the Act is a qualified exemption which means that a
public interest test needs to be carried out, and in doing so the
following factors have been taken into consideration:

* There is a public interest in the transparency of the accountability
of public funds to ensure that public money is being used effectively,
and that departments are getting value for money when purchasing goods
and services.
* However, there is also a public interest in ensuring that the
Department is able to maintain a strong bargaining position during
negotiations. Disclosure of certain information would be likely to
prejudice the commercial interests of the Department by adversely
affecting its bargaining position and resulting in less effective use
of public money.
* There is a public interest in ensuring that those persons from whom
information and advice is sought do not feel inhibited in providing
full information and full and frank advice. Disclosure of certain of
information would prejudice the commercial interests of NSN and would
make it less likely that organisations or individuals would provide
the Department with commercially sensitive information in the future.
This would inhibit the ability of the Department to fulfil its role
and limit the advice it could provide to Ministers.
* It is clearly in the public interest to ensure the Department receives
sufficient information before entering into financial arrangements.
Disclosure of certain information would make it less likely that
organisations or individuals would provide such information to the
Department in the future.

The arguments for and against release have been considered and it is our
view that the balance of public interest falls in favour of the
maintenance of this exemption in relation to certain information
requested.

In addition to the information that has been redacted because it would be
likely to prejudice commercial interests, there is information in the
business case that has been redacted as it is exempt from disclosure under
section 36 of the Act. Disclosure of this information would be likely to
inhibit the free and frank provision of advice (section 36 (2)(b)(i)) or
the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation
(section 36(2)(b)(ii)), or would otherwise be likely to prejudice the
effective conduct of public affairs (section 36(2)(c)).

Section 36 is also a qualified exemption and therefore a public interest
test has been carried out. In doing so the following factors have been
taken into consideration:

* It is acknowledged that there is a general public interest in
disclosure because of the need for there to be open and transparent
government and that the sharing of information with the public should
be free and open.
* However, a key underpinning principle of this exemption is that
Ministers and officials have sufficient space to develop their
thinking and explore available options, including with relevant
stakeholders and partners. It is important for the process of
effective government and therefore in the public interest that such
partners are then able to provide free and frank advice to Ministers.
Disclosing the information requested is likely to inhibit this by
making it more likely that organisations or individuals asked to offer
advice in the future would be unwilling to do so for fear that that
information would be made public without their consent. It is also
likely that disclosure would inhibit other organisations from offering
written plans/information in the future. As a result, the quality and
range of advice to Ministers would be reduced.

The arguments for and against release have been considered and it is our
view that the balance of public interest falls in favour of the
maintenance of this exemption in relation to certain information
requested.

In relation to your second point, whilst this is not a request that falls
within the Act, I can confirm that no other tenders were sought from other
organisations. NSN has been active in this area for some time and was
effectively the only organisation capable of providing the level of
support needed by the number of interested parties quickly enough to
enable the first Free Schools to open by September 2011. As such NSN is
ideally placed to take on the role of supporting individuals and groups in
developing proposals for Free Schools.

In relation to your third point the Department does not hold information
on NSN's donors.

The Department expects to conclude the funding agreement with NSN shortly
and will publish financial details relating to this on its website
www.education.gov.uk.

As we have now provided a substantive response to your request, we do not
intend to set up a review panel unless you indicate that you are not
content with this response.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please
remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should
make a complaint to the Department by writing to me within two calendar
months of the date of this letter. Your complaint will be considered by
an independent review panel, who were not involved in the original
consideration of your request.

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the
Department, you may then contact the Information Commissioner's Office.
Yours sincerely,

Kevin Ahern
Free Schools Group
[email address]
[1]www.education.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2010/0051083.

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References

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

Jed Keenan left an annotation ()

When 'you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should make a complaint to the Department by writing to me within two calendar months of the date of this letter. Your complaint will be considered by
an independent review panel, who were not involved in the original consideration of your request.'

What would be the independent opinion?

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