Information about your dealings with Stonewall [Extraneous material removed]

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Homes England should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear Homes England,

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). Please provide any information that you hold answering to any of the following descriptions:

1. Any application you made in 2019 or 2020 to be a “Stonewall Diversity Champion” or to be included on Stonewall’s “Workplace Equality Index,” including any attachments or appendices to those applications. Please redact personal details if necessary.

2. Any feedback you received in 2019 or 2020 from Stonewall in relation to either application or programme.

3. Any other communication you have received from Stonewall in 2019 or 2020 unless privileged or otherwise exempt from disclosure (but if you claim privilege or exemption in relation to any material, please say in broad terms what the material is and the basis on which you claim to be entitled to withhold it).

4. Full details of any equality impact assessment you carried out connected with any of these applications (including any equality impact assessment carried out prior to an earlier application of the same kind, if no further assessment was done).

5. Details of the total amount of money you paid to Stonewall (i) in 2019; (ii) in 2020, whether or not as payment for goods or services.

6. Whether you intend to continue your membership of any Stonewall scheme in the future, and if so which.

Yours faithfully,

Ermine Amies

Info Gov, Homes England

Thank you for your email to the Information Access team at Homes England.

 

Please refer to the table below which sets out our service standard
response times to your email.

 

Requests for Information under the Freedom of We aim to acknowledge your
Information Act 2000 or Environmental request within one working
Information Regulations 2004 day, and no later than three
working days.

 
Complaints We aim to acknowledge your
request within five working
  days.

 
Data Subject Access Requests under the We aim to acknowledge your
General Data Protection Regulations and in request within one working
accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 day, and no later than three
working days.
 
Enquiries/Correspondence We aim to provide a response
within three working days.
 
 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Homes England request email]
2. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

Info Gov, Homes England

1 Attachment

Dear Ermine Amies,

Please find attached correspondence relating to your request for information which we are processing in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Kind Regards,
The Information Governance Team
Homes England

Switchboard: 0300 1234 500
Windsor House - 6th Floor - 50 Victoria Street - London - SW1H 0TL
@HomesEngland

#MakingHomesHappen
We're the government's housing accelerator. We have the appetite, influence, expertise and resources to drive positive market change. Find out more and help make this happen.

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

Info Gov, Homes England

Dear Ermine Amies,

Further to our acknowledgement of your request, we are writing to provide an update.

Unfortunately we will not be able to issue our response by 5 March as advised in our acknowledgement letter of 10 February.

This is because there are a large amount of emails held that require review/redaction of personal information.

We will provide a further update by 12 March 2021 if we have not been able to issue our response before this date.

We apologise for the delay.

Kind Regards,
The Information Governance Team
Homes England

Switchboard: 0300 1234 500
Windsor House - 6th Floor - 50 Victoria Street - London - SW1H 0TL @HomesEngland

#MakingHomesHappen
We're the government's housing accelerator. We have the appetite, influence, expertise and resources to drive positive market change. Find out more and help make this happen.

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

Dear Homes England,

Thank you. Delay noted!

Yours sincerely,

Ermine Amies

Info Gov, Homes England

Dear Mr Ermine Amies

Further to our previous correspondence relating to your request for information, we are writing to provide an update.
Unfortunately we are not yet in a position to provide you with a response to your request.
We will provide a further update by 26 March 2021 if we have not been able to issue our response before this date.

We apologise for the delay.

Kind regards,
Louisa Clare.

On behalf of the Information Governance Team
Homes England

Homes England l Windsor House l 50 Victoria Street l Westminster l London l SW1 H0TL

@HomesEngland

#MakingHomesHappen
We're the government's housing accelerator. We have the appetite, influence, expertise and resources to drive positive market change. Find out more and help make this happen.

Homes England was launched by the Secretary of State on 11 January 2018. Homes England is the trading name of Homes and Communities Agency (the legal entity).

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

Dear Louisa,

Thank you. It is disappointing to have another delay as the law required an answer by 5 March.

I am concerned that you seem uncertain if you can comply with my request. You have not suggested ways in which you could do so.

Please note it could make it possible for you to comply with my request without further delay and without incurring excess costs by, for example, by providing me with a list of the custodians (by job title; I do not need to know names) you believe to have been the recipients of communications requested under this request so we can agree a lower number communications to redact.

That, of course, would not exhaust your duty to provide me with advice and assistance: there may be other ways in which you can help me to refine my request so that it captures a representative picture of your dealings with Stonewall without requiring additional delay.

Yours sincerely,

Ermine Amies

Info Gov, Homes England

Dear Ermine Amies,

Further to our correspondence below, as advised I am writing to provide an update.

Whilst the response is not able to be issued today, I am pleased to advise that our review of all the emails held has been concluded. The response to your request is now at approval stage and we hope to issue this to you early next week.

Kind Regards,
Josephine Organ-Jennings
On behalf of the Information Governance Team

Switchboard: 0300 1234 500
Windsor House - 6th Floor - 50 Victoria Street - London - SW1H 0TL
@HomesEngland

#MakingHomesHappen
We're the government's housing accelerator. We have the appetite, influence, expertise and resources to drive positive market change. Find out more and help make this happen.

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

Dear Josephine,

Thank you. I look forward to receiving it next week.

Yours sincerely,

Ermine Amies

Info Gov, Homes England

Dear Ermine,

Further to our below, we have this week identified further information held that falls within the scope of your request that was not originally provided to the Information Governance team to review.

We therefore require additional time to review the further information held and prepare it for disclosure. We now anticipate a response will be issued by 14 April.

I apologise for the further delay regarding your request and can advise we are working to provide the response as soon as possible.

I can remind you that your rights of appeal are to request an internal review of the handling of your request or refer the matter to the Information Commissioner's Office: https://ico.org.uk/.

Kind Regards,
Josephine Organ-Jennings
On behalf of the Information Governance Team

Switchboard: 0300 1234 500
Windsor House - 6th Floor - 50 Victoria Street - London - SW1H 0TL
@HomesEngland

#MakingHomesHappen
We're the government's housing accelerator. We have the appetite, influence, expertise and resources to drive positive market change. Find out more and help make this happen.

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

Info Gov, Homes England

Dear Ermine,

As advised below I am writing to provide further update.

I apologise but we are unable to issue our response today as anticipated. This is due to the amount of time it is taking to prepare the additional information identified for disclosure.

We apologise for the delay you are experiencing and I can assure you we are working hard to provide the response as soon as we are able.

Kind Regards,
Josephine Organ-Jennings
On behalf of the Information Governance Team

Switchboard: 0300 1234 500
Windsor House - 6th Floor - 50 Victoria Street - London - SW1H 0TL
@HomesEngland

#MakingHomesHappen
We're the government's housing accelerator. We have the appetite, influence, expertise and resources to drive positive market change. Find out more and help make this happen.

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

Info Gov, Homes England

1 Attachment

Dear Ermine Amies,

Please find attached our response to your request for information which we processed in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We sincerely apologise for the delay in issue.

Kind Regards,
Josephine Organ-Jennings
On behalf of the Information Governance Team

Switchboard: 0300 1234 500
Windsor House - 6th Floor - 50 Victoria Street - London - SW1H 0TL
@HomesEngland

#MakingHomesHappen
We're the government's housing accelerator. We have the appetite, influence, expertise and resources to drive positive market change. Find out more and help make this happen.

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

Dear Homes England,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Homes England's handling of my FOI request 'Information about your dealings with Stonewall'.

Your response to my request is surprising. You have written to decline to answer, using s14(1), the exemption for vexatious requests, 85 working days from receipt of the request.

Timeline:

7 February: The request should have been answered within 20 days by 5 March.

4 March: You advised me that there are a large amount of emails held that require review/redaction of personal information and you would provide a further update by 12 March.

18 March: You promised a further update by 26 March.

19 March: I responded concerned at your failure to respond, with a constructive suggestion on how you might comply with my request. This was 30 working days after my request. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

26 March: You said the review of all the emails held had been concluded and you hoped to issue the response early the following week.

1 April: You advised you had identified further information held that falls within the scope of your request that was not originally provided to the Information Governance team to review so therefore required additional time to review the further information held and prepare it for disclosure. You expected that a response will be issued by 14 April.

14 April: You apologised that the response was yet again delayed “due to the amount of time it is taking to prepare the additional information identified for disclosure.”

10 June: 40 working days on, you finally issued a S14(1) exemption response with no information. This was a total of 85 working days from receipt of my request.

It has taken more than 4 times the period required by law. The delays have been unacceptable.

I appreciate you do not want to provide the information. However I assure you this request is not vexatious, and does not represent an unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress.

The FOI Act requires an 'applicant blind' approach, the principle that information is available to anyone and requests must be assessed without consideration of who made them.

Contrary to the ICO's guidance, your decision has been influenced by your knowledge of the #DontSubmitToStonewall campaign and my active role as a volunteer, rather than an assessment of the request in isolation.

For that reason. I am asking you to review your response and provide an assessment which does not take your knowledge of the requester into consideration.

Please conduct the internal review promptly.

This is the only request you have received on Stonewall’s dealings with you.

There is no disproportionate burden in responding to the request - and the redaction process of communications has been completed.

I have no history of inappropriate requests to Homes England and have not used abusive or aggressive language in the request.

There is clear public interest. The Equality Minister has called for all public sector organisations to leave Stonewall.

The Reindorf Review found Stonewall had an erroneous understanding of the law, basing advice, directions on policy and requirements for the Workplace Equality Index on the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is.

As Stonewall has been found to misrepresent the law, the impact of their interactions with you is certainly a matter of public interest.

Yet you claim a s14(1) exemption and “determined” that my request for information is ”weighed towards a ‘personal’ rather than ‘public’ interest”and have decided that FOIA is not “the appropriate route for pursuing this matter.”

You “consider the impact and disruption on resources is not proportionate to the purpose and wider public value in release of the requested information.“

You allege this request is ‘fishing’. ICO describes a fishing request as a “completely random approach, lacks any clear focus”. Even if it were fishing, the guidance states "fishing for information is not, in itself, enough to make a request vexatious".

Further, you allege the motivation for the request is not genuine and you do not consider that my request is an appropriate or justified use of FOIA. You also claim there is distress to staff and that complying with the request could lead to harassment of Homes England staff.

This is an odd response.

ICO guidance states that Section 14(1) is applied because of the nature of the request rather than the consequences of releasing the requested information.

Internal reviews are the next step recommended by the ICO when a public body declines to answer an FOI request. There's no prohibition on using the FOIA for a lobbying campaign. The campaign demonstrates the strong and explicit public purpose to this request. Please note that this request is one part of systematic crowd sourced research that will enable us to view Stonewall’s dealings with public sector bodies, thus allowing a wider impact of Stonewall’s influence to be understood. ICO guidance indicates that this is a legitimate use of the FOIA.

Many other public authorities have had no difficulty comprehending identically-worded requests, and safely provided full answers.

Here are some examples of the comprehensive responses made by other bodies when asked the same/similar questions. You may wish to consider following their example as regards the detail provided.

The responses provided by Sussex University: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

The responses provided by Edinburgh University: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...

The responses provided by ACAS https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

Section 14(1) is designed to protect public authorities by allowing them to refuse any requests which have the potential to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress. This does not apply to my request.

It has taken 4 months to get here.

Please review and respond as soon as possible, and without fail within 20 days ie by 14 July.

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

Yours faithfully,

Ermine Amies

For ease of reference, I am noting your response of 10 June in full here here.

“We have considered your request and have concluded that a response is refused under section 14(1) of the FOIA.
Section 14(1) is designed to protect public authorities by allowing them to refuse any requests which have the potential to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress.
The full text of the legislation can be found on the following link:
https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/200...
There is no obligation in FOIA on Homes England to detail the tests applied to determine that Section 14(1) applies to your requests. However as part of our duty under section 16 FOIA to provide advice and assistance, we can confirm that we have considered the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance for public authorities on the test to be applied when considering if a request is vexatious.
Homes England recognises the importance of public access to information, however section 14(1) allows us to also consider the context, wider purpose and value and impact on staff when assessing the proportionate impact of disruption on the organisation.
When considering the context of this request, which has been submitted as part of a wider campaign against hundreds of public authorities, we consider and have evidenced that the motivation for the request is not a genuine attempt to make public information that promotes understanding or transparency of public decision making and spending of public money. Rather it has been submitted in order to put pressure/lobby against Homes England regarding our membership of Stonewall schemes, with the intention to criticise and undermine their role as a charitable organisation. We do not consider that your request is an appropriate or justified use of FOIA and that the request is a ‘fishing’ exercise where the actual content of the information requested is not the true purpose of the request. We do not consider that there would not be a public value in release of the information.
We also believe that releasing the information in your request would cause distress to our staff and that complying with your request could lead to harassment of Homes England staff. We are aware that the campaign in which this request has been submitted has advised that requestors should request an internal review of any response no matter the public interest arguments made to withhold information from disclosure. Public authorities who have released information in response to this request have subsequently faced increased lobbying against their memberships of Stonewall schemes and their responses posted/deliberated on social media with the sole purpose of disrupting the organisation’s involvement with Stonewall and as an employer supportive of LGBTQ+ issues.
Therefore we believe that the true motive of the request is not access to information and have determined that your request for information is weighed towards a ‘personal’ rather than ‘public’ interest and that FOIA is not the appropriate route for pursuing this matter. We consider the impact and disruption on resources is not proportionate to the purpose and wider public value in release of the requested information.
Under section 14(1) there is no requirement to carry out a public interest test or to confirm or deny whether the requested information is held.
Once the first section 14(1) refusal notice has been issued we will not continue to acknowledge or respond to further requests of the same nature. Please take this is as the first refusal notice. However, should a reasonable interval elapse before a new request is received from you that is substantially different in nature, we will process said request under the FOIA. “

Info Gov, Homes England

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Amies,

Please find attached correspondence relating to your request for an Internal Review of our response to RFI3318.

Kind Regards

The Information Governance Team
Homes England

Switchboard: 0300 1234 500
Windsor House - 6th Floor - 50 Victoria Street - London - SW1H 0TL
@HomesEngland

#MakingHomesHappen
We're the government's housing accelerator. We have the appetite, influence, expertise and resources to drive positive market change. Find out more and help make this happen.

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

Dear Info Gov,

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Ermine Amies

Ermine Amies left an annotation ()

Internal Review due by 14/07/2021