Isle of Wight Council Pension Fund

Jennifer Kennedy made this Freedom of Information request to Isle of Wight Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was successful.

Dear Isle of Wight Council,

I would like to request the following information:

1) The full details of what the Isle of Wight 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,

Jennifer Kennedy

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

Lloyd, Roseanne, Isle of Wight Council

Dear Ms Kennedy

 

Re: Information Request CRM Ref.IW13/12/27248

 

Thank you for your information request dated 17^th December 2013.

 

Your request was received by the Isle of Wight Council on 17^th December
2013 and is currently being considered.

 

As required by the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Isle of Wight
Council will respond to you as soon as possible and no later than 20
working days after the receipt of your request.

 

Under the Act, there is a limit for responding to requests where they
exceed the Appropriate Fee Limit as set out in the Freedom of Information
and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulation 2004. The fee
limit is set down by the Lord Chancellor and is £450 which equates to a
maximum of 18 hours of search and retrieval time. 

 

Should your request fall into this category, we will notify you as soon as
possible, to discuss any options available to you.

 

If you have any complaints in respect of your information request, please
write to the Corporate Information Unit, County Hall, Newport, Isle of
Wight, PO30 1UD. Or by email to [1][email address], or complete the on-line
appeals form that can be found at [2]www.iwight.com/information. If your
complaint is not resolved to your complete satisfaction, you have the
ultimate right, once you have exhausted the internal appeals process, to
appeal to the Information Commissioner.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Roseanne

 

Roseanne Lloyd ACMI | CRM Support Officer
Isle of Wight Council | Shared Services Centre | Newport | Isle of Wight |
PO30 1UD
Telephone: (01983) 821000
Email: [3][email address].uk | Web Site: [4]www.iwight.com   

PThink environment - do you really need to print this email?

 

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Dear Roseanne,

I am still waiting for the information I requested. It has long since gone over the 20 days since I made the request.

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, funds, etc.

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

Yours sincerely,

Jennifer Kennedy

Dear Lloyd, Roseanne,

Please could you tell me what has happened to my FOI request? As required by law, the Isle of Wight Council should have responded promptly and by 20 January 2014 to my request. I have not had a response and I am therefore writing to ask that the Isle of Wight Council respond to my original FOI request.

Yours sincerely,

Jennifer Kennedy

Harrison, Carol, Isle of Wight Council

3 Attachments

Dear Ms Kennedy

 

Please find attached response to your FOI request dated 17^th December
2013 in respect of Pension Fund investments.

 

Many thanks

Carol

 

Carol Harrison, Business Hub Manager - Resources

Isle of Wight Council | County Hall | Newport | Isle of Wight PO30 1UD

Tel: (01983) 821000 ext 6211  |  Fax: (01983) 823123

email: [1][email address].uk  | Web: [2]www.iwight.com

 

Important Information - Disclosure, Confidentiality and Monitoring of this
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This email communication may be monitored by the Isle of Wight Council for
regulatory, quality control, or crime detection purposes.

If you are not the Intended Recipient please contact the sender as soon as
possible. It is intended only for the personal attention of the named
person, firm or company to whom it is addressed. It may contain
information that is privileged and confidential in law. Accordingly any
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The information contained in this e-mail may be subject to disclosure to
third parties under either the Data Protection Act 1998 or the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 to the extent the law allows and in accordance with
the Isle of Wight Council's policies on information management. (If you
wish the disclosure of the information in any reply to be restricted
please make this clear in your response).

References

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2. http://www.iwight.com/

Jennifer Kennedy

Dear Isle of Wight Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Isle of Wight Council's handling of my FOI request 'Isle of Wight 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 many more 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 Isle of Wight 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 Isle of Wight Council Council, such as the Greater Manchester Pension Fund.

2) In the decision against disclosure of the information I requested from Isle of Wight Council, I was told that the information was exempt
under section 43 of Part II of the Act.

“Some of the information you have requested is considered commercially sensitive and is therefore exempt under section 43 of Part II of the Act.”

More specifically, it was stated that:

“It is the Council’s belief that the release of this information would be likely to prejudice the interests of the Council in its commercial activities. The release of the information could have a detrimental impact on the way the Council conducts its business and could damage its reputation with its customers.

“The Council has considered the Public Interest Test in this case, and it is of the opinion that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in providing the information. Those parties that carry out business with the Council need to be assured that commercially sensitive information will remain protected from the public eye. Disclosure of this type of information could undermine the ability of the Council to carry out its duties effectively, as third parties may choose not to enter into negotiations with the Council.”

I would argue that any suggested harm or prejudice to commercial interests from disclosure is insignificant and highly unlikely, especially as so many other Local Authorities have already released the information I have requested. for their respective pension funds.

Does Isle of Wight Council 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 Isle of Wight Council provide evidence that full disclosure of their own investments will actually damage commercial interests or “prejudice the commercial interests of the Council in its commercial activities”? 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 Isle of Wight 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 Isle of Wight Council to release similar information for their pension fund as any commercial harm will likely.be minimal and trivial.

3) I wanted to expand on the public interest case in releasing the information I requested. It is true, as stated in the response to my original request, that the arguments for disclosure include the public interest test:

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 Isle of Wight 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, (Version3, 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 Isle of Wight 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 Isle of Wight 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 Isle of Wight Council Pension Fund and further warrants the full disclosure of its current investments.

Yours faithfully,

Jennifer Kennedy

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

Johnson, Karen, Isle of Wight Council

2 Attachments

Dear Jennifer Kennedy,

 

Please find attached the findings of the appeal to your original request
iw13/12/27248 and related enclosures.

 

Regards

 

Karen Johnson | Information Access Officer | Corporate Information Unit
|  Legal Services | Isle of Wight Council | County Hall | Newport | Isle
of Wight | PO30 1UD | Tel: (01983) 821000 | Email:
[email address] | Web: [1]www.iwight.com

 

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Important Information - Disclosure, Confidentiality and Monitoring of this
email

This email communication may be monitored by the Isle of Wight Council for
regulatory, quality control, or crime detection purposes.

If you are not the Intended Recipient please contact the sender as soon as
possible. It is intended only for the personal attention of the named
person, firm or company to whom it is addressed. It may contain
information that is privileged and confidential in law. Accordingly any
unauthorised dissemination, distribution, copying or other use of this
message or any of its content by any other person may constitute a breach
of civil or criminal law and is strictly prohibited. No mistake in
transmission is intended to waive or compromise any such privilege. Any
views expressed in this message are those of the individual sender and may
not necessarily reflect the views of the Isle of Wight Council.

The information contained in this e-mail may be subject to disclosure to
third parties under either the Data Protection Act 1998 or the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 to the extent the law allows and in accordance with
the Isle of Wight Council's policies on information management. (If you
wish the disclosure of the information in any reply to be restricted
please make this clear in your response).

References

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