Office and remote working in Government departments

Waiting for an internal review by Cabinet Office of their handling of this request.

Dear Cabinet Office,

I would like to request any recorded information held by the Cabinet Office in relation to the following:

1. The communication sent to Government departments advising of the requirement for civil servants to work 60% of their working time in an office.
2. Any minutes of meetings or a record of the decision making that led to this decision, including the names of the responsible ministers.
3. Any advice given to Government departments regarding how to communicate this to staff included with the communication described at point 1.
4. Any recorded information confirming if this is a recommendation or legal requirement, i.e. confirmation as to whether individual departments have their own discretion to adopt or ignore the directive.
5. Any recorded information held relating to any data protection considerations regarding the potential monitoring of staff by departments, for example, any data protection impact assessments held by the Cabinet Office for the monitoring of timekeeping, building access, laptop/device logins and different IP addresses for individual members of staff.
6. Any recorded information detailing the requirement for individual departments to report office/remote working data to the Cabinet Office.

Yours faithfully,

P John

Cabinet Office FOI Team,

Our ref: FOI2023/14807

Dear P John,

Thank you for your request for information which was received on 14th
December. Your request is being handled under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 ('the Act').

The Act requires that a response must be given promptly, and in any event
within 20 working days. We will therefore aim to reply at the latest by
17th January.

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information Team

Cabinet Office

Cabinet Office FOI Team,

2 Attachments

Dear P John,

Please find attached our response to your recent Freedom of Information
request (reference FOI2023/14807).

Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information Team

Cabinet Office

Terence McCormack left an annotation ()

The refusal of Q5 under Section 12 does not appear credible. It seems absurd to suggest reasonable searches for this information would take more than 3.5 days. The Cabinet Office presumably has a Data Protection team who would hold the relevant records of any consultation with them on this topic. It also seems hard to believe the Data Protection team wouldn't hold a central register of all DPIAs conducted by the Department, and likely copies of all finalised DPIAs as well, so it should be trivial to locate these records. I would be curious to see how they have calculated this timeframe.

Dear Cabinet Office,

Thank you for your reply and the information you have been able to disclose.

I would like to request an internal review.

For the information withheld under section 36 I would like to understand what information has been withheld. You have not provided this in your response. I am therefore of the view that you have not complied with section 1(1) of the Act.

I do not believe your response has set out the prejudice that would or would be likely to occur. You do set out a public interest test but you need to establish a prejudice before this.

With regards to the public interest test you indicate that ministers need a safe space to be free and frank otherwise this would have a detrimental effect.

This is incredulous to suggest that senior ministers and officials would be anything less than open and honest at any stage. Are you seriously suggesting that individuals believe that they have a right to absolute confidentiality in such discussions and that disclosure should not be allowed? Civil servants should conduct their business with the expectation of disclosure.

The Act has been around since 2005 (when it was enacted) so the Government and its ministers should expect and plan for transparency and accountability. Do your officials not receive training on the Act?

I think disclosure is in the public interest so the public can understand what factors were considered when the decision was made and to understand which ministers have made this decision. For no ministers to take responsibility is quite strange and without disclosure can only lead to speculation that perhaps the Government and its ministers do not truly believe it is in the best interests of the Civil Service and the public taxpayer. The public have a right to know whether there was any specific analysis or study that led to the decision and why 60% was the recommended figure. Why not 40, 80 or 100%? Without disclosure there can be no accountability or scrutiny.

I would also like to understand how you have estimated the cost of compliance with part 5 would exceed the appropriate limit. Your response simply states how section 12 works. You have not provided any explanation or estimate. Did you conduct a sample search to come to this conclusion? You have not provided any advice and assistance as to what information you may be able to provide as part of a refined request. I therefore believe your response to this is non compliant and potentially in breach of section 16 and the code of practice. Please review this and provide an explanation as to how this request would exceed the limit and provide advice as to what information you may be able to provide/what searches you could conduct within the appropriate limit. Surely your own Data Protection department will hold records centrally on a log and will be able to conduct searches within the 24 limit? To suggest otherwise would seem very strange and call into question your record keeping.

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

Thank you again for the response and the information disclosed thus far.

P John

Cabinet Office FOI Team,

Dear P John,

Thank you for your request for an internal review (reference
IR2024/01410), which was prompted by our response to your request for
information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We shall endeavour to complete the internal review and respond to you
within 20 working days.

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

FOI Team

Dear Cabinet Office

It has now been 31 working days since my request for a review. Can you please provide an update on when you expect to be able to respond?

The code of practice recommends 20 working days, 40 in exceptional circumstances. I would appreciate the courtesy of an update.

Thank you

P John

FOI Team Mailbox, Cabinet Office

Dear P John

Thank you for your email

The ICO advises that public authorities should aim to complete internal
reviews within 20 working days and while we work hard to ensure that
responses are issued in a timely manner this is not always possible.

Please accept our apologies that we have not been able to issue a response
to your internal review within the time frame advised by the ICO. I would
like to assure you that the review is still being conducted and a response
will be issued to you once it has concluded. 

Yours sincerely,

FOI Team
Cabinet Office

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Dear Cabinet Office

Please provide an estimate of when you envisage being able to respond. Tomorrow, the 22 March, will be the 40th working day since I requested a review.

I do not think it is unreasonable to ask for an estimated date of response. Please also commit to providing a regular update.

In your reply to me you refer to the ICO. I would like you to refer to the Code of Practice issued by the Government and published by the Cabinet Office:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio...

Part 5 covers internal reviews on pages 19-22.

At point 5.4 it makes it clear that reviews should be responded to within 20 working days. In exceptional circumstances reviews can take longer, see point 5.5.

Please explain why you have needed longer than 20 working days and why you will need longer than 40 working days.

Yours sincerely,

Mr P John

FOI Team Mailbox, Cabinet Office

Dear P John
Thank you for your email and please accept our apologies that we have not
yet issued a response to your request

I can assure you that your request is still being worked on and that we
will issue you with a response as soon as it has concluded.
Many thanks
FOI Team
Cabinet Office  

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Dear FOI Team

Can you please provide an update?

Yours sincerely,

Mr P John

FOI Team Mailbox, Cabinet Office

Dear P John 
Thank you for your email and please accept our apologies that we have not
yet issued a response to your request

I can assure you that your request is still being worked on and that we
will issue you with a response as soon as it has concluded.
Kind regards
FOI Team 
Cabinet Office  

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