private finance initiative agreement with Wirral School Services Limited

ScarletPimpernel made this Freedom of Information request to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

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

The request was successful.

ScarletPimpernel

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Wirral Council currently makes monthly payments of over a million pounds to a Wirral School Services Limited in relation to a private finance initiative contract for one primary, eight secondary schools on the Wirral and two City Learning Centres.

If the Schools Forum Formula Working Group has met since the April Schools Forum meeting on the 30th April 2014 please could you provide the minutes of this meeting.

Please could you also provide a copy of the contract between Wirral Council and Wirral School Services Limited.

At a public meeting of the Wirral Schools Forum on the 30th April 2014 there was an agenda item "Funding for Private Initiative Costs" and the contract referred to would have been used as a background paper for the report. S.100D of the Local Government Act 1972 provides the public with a
right to inspect background papers used to produce public reports for public meetings. Under such circumstances I cannot therefore envisage Wirral Council applying an exemption to the information. I therefore look forward to either receiving a copy of contract.

For information the author of the report is Julia Hassall (Director of Children's Services) who can be contacted at [email address] or 0151 666 4288.

Yours faithfully,

John Brace

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Good Afternoon,

Thank you for your recent Freedom of Information request.  The Council
considers that the PFI contract is exempt information under Section 43 of
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Commercial Interests.    The Council
believes that to disclose the information would be likely to prejudice the
commercial interests of any person. (A person may be an individual, a
company, the public authority itself or any other legal entity.)

The concept of commercial interest is wide and a commercial interest
relates to a person’s ability to participate competitively in a commercial
activity, i.e. the purchase and sale of goods or services.

The Council has had regard to the advice contained within the guidance on
the Information Commissioner’s Office website at
[1]http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/guid...

The public interest test has been considered and the Council believes that
disclosure of any such information would be likely to prejudice the
commercial interests of any person.   The Council needs to operate in a
commercial and competitive environment and disclose of information, in
this case, could prejudice the ability for the Council to operate
competitively. 

 

You have the right to ask for an internal review in respect of this
refusal of your request for information. This should be addressed to:

Information Manager

Legal and Member Services

Town Hall

Brighton Street

Wallasey

CH44 8ED

[2][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

If you are dissatisfied with the result of your internal review, you also
have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner, whose address
is

The Information Commissioner’s Office,

Wycliffe House,

Water Lane,

Wilmslow,

Cheshire SK9 5AF

[3]www.ico.gov.uk

 

The last Schools Forum Working Group meeting was on 13^th June, so these
minutes are not yet available. The discussion will be reported to the next
Schools Forum which was on 2^nd July 2014.

 

I trust you will find this information useful.

 

Kind regards,

Jane Corrin

Information Management

Transformation and Resources

Wirral Council

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You are free to
use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial research you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may
involve licensing and the application of a charge.

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ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

The notes of the Schools Forum Formula Working Group have already been published on the 28th June on Wirral Council's website here http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents... .

Therefore stating "The last Schools Forum Working Group meeting was on 13th June, so these minutes are not yet available." seems incorrect.

No mention made in their public interest test that the contract is a background paper and therefore used to justify recommendations from officers about budgetary decisions. The accounts will be open to public inspection from 21st July, when I can request to inspect a copy of the contract.

An internal review will just refuse the request as by the time it's done it'll be the audit period and they'll say I can get the contract by other means.

It just seems Wirral Council doesn't want to release it ahead of the Lyndale School motion at the next Council meeting on the 14th July.

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

And in case anyone doubts the two are connected, here's an extract from the notes of the School Funding Working Party meeting of the 13th June 2014.

Review of Central Budgets
The review of central budgets arises from the planning required to implement a decision to reduce the Council’s financial support to the Schools PFI agreement by £2.3m with effect from 2015-16.

This change is initially being considered through a review of School’s Budgets that are held centrally. The following potential reductions in central budgets were identified and could be implemented from 2015-16:

• School Closure retirement costs £200,000
(There is no call on this element of the budget)
• School Harmonisation Costs £450,000
(It is expected that the reserve of £1.1m will be sufficient to meet backdated implementation costs and any appeals.)

Other budgets were broadly discussed and should be looked at in more detail.

These include: £
• Admissions 365,400
• Contributions to Combined Budgets 2,336,200
• Planned Programmed Maintenance 449,000
• High Needs

Recommendation. That the group consider budget commitments and outcomes in these centrally managed areas and submit a further report in September.

ScarletPimpernel

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'private finance initiative agreement with Wirral School Services Limited'.

First, the minutes of the Schools Forum Formula Working Group requested were published on your website on 28th June 2014 at http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/documents... , therefore to state in a response sent out on the 9th July "these minutes are not yet available" was not entirely accurate as you had already published them.

As to the copy of the contract between Wirral
Council and Wirral School Services Limited which you have refused on s.43 grounds.

This is a contract that runs to July 2031 and requires Wirral School Services Limited to provide services which achieve the Council's output specifications in the contract. The contract details how the success of this is measured through a payment mechanism and deductions system. The contract also details relief events where WSSL is excused from performance.

The contract also details which items are a shared risk, limited risk and no risk to WSSL (for example the costs of repairs due to vandalism in certain conditions rests with Wirral Council).

The costs are subject to RPI, value for money testing and comparing with prevailing market conditions. The contract also details the rules detailing compensation for terminating the contract. From this year (2014/15) RPI has been estimated as opposed to using the estimates in the operator's financial model.

As detailed, the monthly payments are above a million pounds and the contract does not expire until 2031.

You state "The public interest test has been considered and the Council believes that disclosure of any such information would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any person. The Council needs to operate in a commercial and competitive environment and disclose of information, in this case, could prejudice the ability for the Council to operate competitively. "

As the contract does not expire until 2031, the issue of competition and a competitive environment does not arise until near that date.

The contract is with a limited company, whose annual accounts can be requested from Companies House for the fee of £1. The amounts paid monthly to WSSL are published by Wirral Council, with a requirement in future under the Local Government Transparency Code to publish individual invoices and details surrounding the contract. Due to this, publishing the contract is not likely to prejudice the commercial interests of WSSL Ltd.

The large sums of public money involved (over a million pounds a month) mean there are strong public interest arguments in there being more openness and transparency as to what a considerable amount of taxpayers money is spent on. Disclosure of the information would not prejudice the ability for the Council to operate competitively due to the long term of the contract and the clauses within it that provide for adjustments to the sums paid based on current market rates.

For the above reasons I am requesting an internal review and look forward to reading your response with interest.

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

Yours faithfully,

John Brace

M D Ryan left an annotation ()

This really matters considerably!

O'Hare, Tracy J., Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Good Afternoon

                Wirral Council thanks you for your further correspondence
below in this matter and apologises for the delay in response to your
enquiry.

 

The Council has reviewed your enquiry and the Council would like to
amend its response to you.  We are able to inform you this
information is available publicly and  can be accessed  through the
annual inspection of accounts.

We therefore are refusing this request under Section 21 of the
Freedom of Information Act, ‘information reasonably accessible by
other means’. Further guidance on Section 21 can be found on the
Information Commissioner’s Website at this link
<[1]http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/guid...

If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome of this internal review,
you have the right to complain to the Office of The Information
Commissioner at   <[2]https://ico.org.uk/Global/contact_us>

Thank you for your enquiry, kind regards

Tracy O'Hare

Information Management

Transformation and Resources

Wirral Council

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to  be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You are
free  to use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial
research  you are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any
other reuse, for  example commercial publication, would require our
specific permission,  may involve licensing and the application of a
charge.

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