Public sector flex Intelligent Customer Function minutes

Janine Baker made this Freedom of Information request to Cabinet Office

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Under the Freedom of Information Act, please can you provide me with copies of all minutes of the Intelligent Customer Function and other similar Management Meetings held by the 'public sector flex' team since 1 January 2007.

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

Cabinet Office

CABINET OFFICE REFERENCE: FOI263398

Dear Ms Baker,

Thank you for your request for information. Your request was received on
17/03/2009 and is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.

In some circumstances a fee may be payable and if that is the case, I will
let you know the likely charges before proceeding.

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

Your sincerely,

FOI Team
Cabinet Office
E: [1][Cabinet Office request email]

The Cabinet Office computer systems may be monitored and communications
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Cabinet Office

Our Ref: FOI263398

Dear Ms Baker

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

Thank you for your request for information which we received on 17 March
2009 about the Public Sector Flex Intelligent Customer Function Minutes

I can confirm that the Cabinet Office does hold information falling within
the terms of your request.

The Freedom of Information Act obliges us to respond to requests promptly
and in any case no longer than 20 working days after receiving your
request. However, when a qualified exemption applies to the information
and the public interest test is engaged, the Act allows the time for
response to be longer than 20 working days and a full response must be
provided within such time as is reasonable in all circumstances of the
case.

We do, of course, aim to make all decisions within 20 working days,
including cases where we need to consider where the public interest test
lies in respect of a request for exempt information. In this case however,
we have not yet reached a decision on where the balance of the public
interest lies.

In your case we estimate it will take an additional 20 working days to
take a decision on where the balance of public interest lies. Therefore,
we plan to let you have a response by 13 May 2009.

If it appears that it will take longer than this to reach a conclusion, we
will keep you informed.

The specific exemptions which apply in relation to your request is section
43 (commercial interests) and Section 41 (information provided in
confidence).

Yours Sincerely

Keith Roberts

Ministerial Business Advisor

Transformational Government

Cabinet Office

Address:

Cabinet Office

Transformational Government

Room 1.6A

Admiralty Arch (South)

The Mall

London

SW1A 2WH

Tel: 020 7276 3248

e-Mail Address: [1][email address]

Website: [2]http://www.cio.gov.uk/transformational_g...

[3]WWW.DIRECT.GOV.UK - THE PLACE TO TURN FOR THE LATEST AND WIDEST RANGE
OF PUBLIC SERVICE INFORMATION

The Cabinet Office computer systems may be monitored and communications
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Dear Sir

Your Ref: FOI263398

Thank you for your response, and I am pleased to confirm that in this instance I am happy to wait until 13 May for a response.

I appreciate that you may feel the need to redact a small amount of commercially sensitive or confidential information from the minutes.

Whilst you determine on whether it is appropriate to apply the stated exemptions I should like to draw your attention to the guidance issued by the Information Commissioner relating to minutes of meetings.

This can be found at http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/l... and states, inter alia,

"As a general rule you should publish ... minutes of senior-level policy and strategy meetings, eg board meetings and any background documents which are referred to in the agenda or minutes or were circulated in preparation for the meeting."

I believe this useful and clear guidance would seem to indicate the view the Information Commissioner is likely to take should I need to appeal to the independent Information Tribunal under section 57 of the Act.

Furthermore, as you are intending to take an additional period of time to respond, perhaps you would also be so kind as to extend the scope of my request (in line with the ICO guidance) to encompass "any background documents which are referred to in the agenda or minutes or were circulated in preparation for the Intelligent Customer Function and
other similar Management Meetings of the public sector Flex team".

If this will delay consideration and response to the original request, I am happy for this to be treated as a new FOI request, although I suspect it would be easier for you to determine the public interest in publishing these at the same time as for release of the main minutes.

Yours sincerely,

Janine Baker

Dear Mr Roberts,

Your Ref: FOI263398

In your previous mail you advised that you were planning to provide a response to me by today, 13 May, or that if it appeared that it will take longer than this to reach a conclusion, you would keep me informed.

I should be grateful for an update on this.

Yours sincerely,

Janine Baker

Dear Mr Roberts,

Your Ref: FOI263398

In your previous mail you advised that you were planning to provide a response to me by 13 May. I did send you a reminder a week ago but have heard nothing.

I should be grateful for an update on this.

Yours sincerely,

Janine Baker

Dear Mr Roberts,

Your Ref: FOI263398

I am most disappointed at your failure to respond to my request made under the Freedom of Information Act on 17 March.

You did advise me on 8 April that the request would take longer to process as you were considering a public interest exemption, and that you were expecting to provide a response by 13 May as permitted by the Freedom of Information Act (section 10(3)); however, it should be noted that the extension of the time for response in cases where public interest is being considered is not an absolute one, but rather is an extension "until such time as is reasonable in the circumstances". You have now had 32 working days since referring this for consideration of the public interest exemption, which I believe to be more than reasonable.

Furthermore, I contacted you on 13 May to remind you that a response was due, and then a week later on 20 May to follow this up, and on neither occasion have you bothered even to show the common decency of an acknowledgement and a revised timescale for response. Another week has now passed and I am, understandably, getting frustrated.

If I do not hear from you in the next few days, I shall be forced to make a formal complaint about the poor handling of this request.

I trust that I shall be hearing from you very shortly.

Yours sincerely,

Janine Baker

Dear Sir or Madam,

Re: FOI263398

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Cabinet Office's handling of my FOI request 'Public sector flex Intelligent Customer Function minutes'.

I was advised by Mr Keith Roberts on 8 April that you were extending the timescales for a response as you were considering a qualified exemption, and that you were aiming to respond to me by 13 May.

I accepted this delay in responding, and on 13 May chased for a response. This was ignored. I chased again on 20 May. This too was ignored. I chased yet again on 27 May, and again this was ignored.

I should be grateful if you could conduct a review of the handling of this request. Whilst there is no formal timescale for responding to FOI requests where a qualified exemption is being considered, the Ministry of Justice advises that extensions should generally avoid exceeding 20 working days. You have already taken almost double this, and it is two and a half months since I made the initial request.

I am most disappointed that the Cabinet Office, at the very heart of Government, should have such a lacklustre approach to handling FOI requests. I am, however, hopeful that a fresh pair of eyes on this request will lead to the release of the requested information without too much additional delay.

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

Yours sincerely,

Janine Baker

Dear Sir or Madam,

Re: FOI263398

It has now been a month since I contacted you requesting an internal review of the handling of my Freedom of Information Act request, three and a half months since I first tried to get information from you. I have not had any communication from you since 8 April, not even an acknowledgement of the five messages I have sent you since then.

Please can you confirm without delay that the Internal Review into the handling of this request is being conducted, and advise on the likely date for a response. Whilst there is no mandatory timescale for an Internal Review, the Information Commissioner has stated (Good Practice Guidance #5) that a reasonable timescale for conducting an Internal Review is 20 working days, and that if the process is likely to take longer than this, the public authority should notify the requester and explain why more time is needed.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly. If you fail to respond to this message within a reasonable timescale, I shall have no option but to complain to the Information Commissioner.

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

Cabinet Office

1 Attachment

Please see the attached letter.

show quoted sections

FOR THE ATTENTION OF SUE GRAY, DIRECTOR

RE: FOI263398

Thank you for your response, which unfortunately denies me access to the information requested.

I confirm that I would like the Internal Review to address not just the poor handling of this request by the Cabinet Office, but also the decision to withhold the information requested.

I should like the review to consider the following points:

1. As I indicated in a previous email, the Information Commissioner has indicated that "As a general rule you should publish ... minutes of senior-level policy and strategy meetings, eg board meetings and any background documents which are referred to in the agenda or minutes or were circulated in preparation for the meeting." This would indicate to me that you should be starting from a basis of expecting to publish the vast majority of the information, and perhaps have to redact a small amount due to various exemptions.

2. It appears inconceivable that out of 14 meetings every single item discussed was covered by one or more of the exemptions. Is it really appropriate to use section 40(2), 41(1) and 43(2) in respect of every item on every page of the minutes of these 14 meetings?

3. I am surprised about the application of section 40(2) to exempt this information from release. Whilst it is possible that there may have been a very limited amount of personal information included in the minutes, I would be most surprised if this amounted to anything significant. Please can the review consider carefully to what material section 40(2) is being applied, and whether this is appropriate. I would not expect, for instance, that simply naming individuals within the Cabinet Office or the service provider would give rise to such an exemption, even if those individuals were underperforming. Furthermore, if individuals were underperforming, would it not be sufficient just to blank out his or her name, rather than stating that the whole document cannot be released because it mentions someone. I am sure this is an aspect the Information Commissioner will wish to review should I need to take this matter further.

4. I would likewise be surprised if there was a considerable element of the minutes covered by section 41(1). I should like the review to consider carefully to what material section 41(1) is being applied, and in each case to review whether the information was really given in confidence if it has been officially recorded in the minutes. Furthermore, my understanding is that the Flex Framework Board is intended to discuss a wide range of issues concerning the application and progress of this programme. Given that there would not be any actionable breach of confidence for the Cabinet Office releasing Cabinet Office information, and it is unlikely that there would be an actionable breach of confidence relating to the Cabinet Office releasing information from another Government department, I can only assume that any such confidential information would be that provided directly by the service provider. If this is the case, again the amount of such material that would potentially be subject to redaction under this exemption is likely to be very small. Also, I should like the review to ascertain whether there was an explicit indication given at any time that such information was being provided in confidence. Is there anything in the Flex contract or in the standing instructions of the Flex Framework Board to indicate that material is being given in confidence and is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act?

5. I am less surprised at the application of section 43(2), as I would expect there to be some discussion of commercially sensitive information in a meeting including the Government and its service provider. However, as I indicated in my previous email, I would not expect this to allow the Cabinet Office carte blanche to deny access to all information in all of the minutes and supporting materials. It may well be the case that if there were commercially sensitive discussions, then some of the minutes may need to be redacted to protect such commercial sensitivities, but because of the public interest test it would be necessary for an appropriate person (whom I believe to be a Cabinet Office Minister) to specifically consider whether such an exemption is necessary, and I would expect this to be done on a case by case basis rather than as a blanket refusal to release any information whatsoever.

I am sure that the Cabinet Office is in favour of transparent government, and of the importance of taxpayers being able to see whether major programmes are being run efficiently and effectively. The idea of the Freedom of Information Act is that it starts with a presumption and desire to make information available, and that the exemptions are only there to protect information which really cannot be released into the public domain. I fear that the approach taken by the Cabinet Office in responding to this FOI request, from the long delay in responding and the indiscriminate use of exemptions which would appear to have a very narrow applicability to deny access to every piece of information held, is at odds with this general principle of open government.

In summary, I should like the review to consider carefully whether it is appropriate to withhold all the information in all of the minutes (and background documents etc), especially in the light of the Information Commissioners “general rule” concerning release of information. I would much prefer to see the minutes published with a few parts of them blacked out (obviously only where one or more of the exemptions specifically applies), and I would like the review to consider the validity of each such redaction. With just 14 sets of minutes, I would not expect it to be an onerous or time consuming task to review each of the items on these few sets of minutes to see whether one of the three exemptions applies and blank out the small number of items where one does.

As previously indicated, I should also like the review to consider the circumstances which led to the appalling and apparently unprofessional handling of this request by the Cabinet Office, whereby Mr Keith Roberts agreed to keep me informed if the response would arrive later than 13 May, and then Mr Roberts and colleagues apparently ignored three weekly reminders on 13 May, 20 May and 27 May, the formal request for an internal review on 2 June and that I only received this response after indicating that I was on the verge of complaining to the Information Commissioner.

I should be grateful if you could:

a) Acknowledge receipt of this email.
b) Indicate the expected timescale for the substantive review of this to be completed (which I would expect to be within the next four weeks).
c) Keep me informed if there is likely to be any delay to the timescale.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

Cabinet Office

Dear Ms Baker,

Thank you for Internal Review request dated 04/07/2009. This is receiving
attention and we aim to get back to you within 20 working days of date of
receipt of your email.

Kind Regards,

FOI Team
Cabinet Office
E: [1][Cabinet Office request email]

The Cabinet Office computer systems may be monitored and communications
carried on them recorded to secure the effective operation of the system
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FOR THE ATTENTION OF SUE GRAY, DIRECTOR

RE: FOI263398

I should be grateful if you could provide an update on this Internal Review.

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

FOR THE ATTENTION OF SUE GRAY, DIRECTOR

RE: FOI263398

On 4 July I asked for an Internal Review of the decision to deny me access to the minutes and background papers for meetings of the Public Sector Flex Intelligent Customer Function. I also wanted you to review why it took such a long time to respond to my request and why the whole process was handled so appallingly by your department, with deadlines missed and a complete lack of any communications from your team.

After a week I received an acknowledgement of the request and an assertion that this was receiving attention and that you aimed to get back to me within 20 working days of date of receipt of my email (ie by 31 July).

However, 31 July came and went with no sign of a response from you. I left it a couple more weeks since it is the holiday season, and sent you a chaser on 18 August. This appears to have been ignored.

Please can you therefore confirm to me:

1. Is the Internal Review progressing?

2. Who is conducting the Internal Review?

3. When is the review expected to be completed?

4. Are there any additional complaint channels I can use within the Cabinet Office if you fail to respond to my Internal Review in a timely fashion, or do I need to complain direct to the Information Commissioner?

I look forward to hearing from you by return.

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

Mike Dean left an annotation ()

I have had exactly the same experience with the Cabinet Office. They just don't reply to any emails and have currently taken 90 working days on one of my internal reviews... with the only update being "your request is receiving attention. Really poor.

** PLEASE TREAT THIS AS A COMPLAINT UNDER YOUR COMPLAINTS HANDLING PROCEDURE **

I am writing to complain about the poor standard of service provided by the Freedom of Information Team at the Cabinet Office.

The full audit trail of this issue can be found at www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/public_se....

In summary, I made a request under the Freedom of Information Act on 17 March. This was immediately acknowledged and on 8 April I received an initial response that you were considering the public interest test on an exemption, and that you requried an additional 20 working days to
consider this.

At the end of that period, I had heard nothing so sent a chaser (13 May), which you appear to have ignored. I sent another chaser (20 May) which you ignored. I sent a further chaser (27 May) which you ignored.

Since you were unwilling to provide any response, I had to request an Internal Review into the handling of the response (3 June). This too elicited no response from you until I chased it again (2 July) when I finally received a response to my initial request.

In this response, in addition to denying me access to the information I sought, you acknowledged the internal review request and said before you issued "a substantive response to the review", you wanted to know whether I wanted the review to cover the decision to withhold the information as well as the poor handling. I confirmed immediately (4 July) that I did want the review to cover the decision as well as the process.

After a week I received a response from you that you were considering the Internal Review and that you aimed to respond within 20 working days.
After this time, I chased up a response (18 August); this was ignored. I chased it up again a week ago (26 August), but again this has been ignored.

My complaint is as follows:

1. The FOI Team has failed to acknowledge/respond to six messages from me (13 May, 20 May, 27 May, 3 June, 18 August, 26 August).

2. The time taken to respond to the initial FOI request (and to deny me the information) was 75 working days. The Act (s10) says that you must comply "promptly". Even considering a public interest test, this is massively in excess of the 20 working days in the Act and in no way could be described as responding promptly. I would have expected that the FOI Team should have processes to ensure that you meet your legal obligations under the Act, and this clear failure indicates that you do not.

3. The time taken so far to fail to respond to the Internal Review request is either 64 working days (from when I first asked on 3 June) or 40 working days (from when I extended the Internal Review request to cover your refusal to provide me with the information). The Information Commissioner's guidance is that a reasonable timescale for an Internal Review is 20 working days. You have had at least twice this. Again, I would expect that the FOI Team should have a responsibility for monitoring Internal Reviews to ensure they progress in a timely fashion. You appear to have failed to do so.

Therefore, IN PARALLEL WITH MY REQUEST FOR AN INTERNAL REVIEW, I should like you to invoke your complaints procedure in respect of the actions (or inactions) of the FOI Team. Whilst the Internal Review is (hopefully) looking wider at the whole handling of the FOI request (and the reasons for denying me the information requested), my complaint is specifically about the FOI Team's role, failing to acknowledge/respond to messages and failure to adequately control the process for responding to requests.

I understand from your published Complaints Procedure that you aim to "treat complaints seriously and deal with them efficiently", "resolve complaints promptly" and "learn from complaints and take action to improve your service". You also have a commitment to respond promptly and ALWAYS WITHIN 15 DAYS.

For avoidance of doubt, I confirm that this complaint is in addition to and not in replacement of my Internal Review request. I am still awaiting a response to this.

I look forward to hearing from you:

(a) on the outcome of the Internal Review as soon as possible;

(b) on my complaint as soon as possible and within 15 days, ie by 17 September.

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to remind you that I am still waiting for a response to my request for an Internal Review which was sent to you on 4 July (now almost four months ago). I would remind you that in most cases Internal Reviews should be processed within 4-6 weeks, so you have already had twice as much time as this.

I am also awaiting an acknowledgement/response to my formal complaint of 2nd September sent to your department. I would remind you that the Cabinet Office's published service standards say that complaints will always be responded to within 15 days. You have already had 61 days to respond to this.

Would it be possible for you to provide expected timescales (or responses) to the Internal Review and the Formal Complaint?

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

Cabinet Office

2 Attachments

Dear Ms Baker

I am writing to confirm that the Cabinet Office has now completed its
search for the information you requested. A copy of the information which
can be disclosed is available in three compressed files, the first of
which I enclose here.

Some of the information that falls within the terms of your request is
exempt from the right of access under section 40 of the Act. After
extensive examination, it was decided that the balance of public interest
lay against providing personal data for those involved in these meetings.

Finally, please note that there are no sets of minutes for meeting numbers
1 or 15. The most recent set of minutes is for meeting number 19.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions

Kind regards

Felicity Pickering

Reliable Delivery Manager

Cabinet Office

0207 276 3210

The Cabinet Office computer systems may be monitored and communications
carried on them recorded, to secure the effective operation of the system
and for other lawful purposes.

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
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Cabinet Office

1 Attachment

  • Attachment

    Framework Board 13 19.zip

    5.4M Download

Dear Ms Baker

Enclosed is the third and final compressed file of minutes.

Kind regards

Felicity Pickering

The Cabinet Office computer systems may be monitored and communications
carried on them recorded to secure the effective operation of the system
and for other lawful purposes.

show quoted sections

Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
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Cabinet Office

1 Attachment

  • Attachment

    Framework Board 07 12.zip

    7.2M Download

Dear Ms Baker

Enclosed is the second compressed file of minutes.

Kind regards

Felicity Pickering

The Cabinet Office computer systems may be monitored and communications
carried on them recorded, to secure the effective operation of the system
and for other lawful purposes.

show quoted sections

Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

Dear Ms Pickering

Firstly I should like to thank you, after all this time, for sending me a response. It is a shame that it has taken seven and a half months to get here, but thank you for what you have sent through.

Whilst I am pleased to see some of the information has been released, I am somewhat concerned about the excessive redaction in the documents, particularly the minutes from meetings 17 to 19. You indicate in your covering note that some information has been excluded under section 40 of FOIA (following an extensive examination). This leads to two follow up comments:

1. Under section 40 of FOIA you have redacted the names of every attendee at every meeting, and any references to the individuals in the minutes. According to the guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office (http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/l...), s40 does not give a blanket exemption always to hide everyone's names. Instead you should consider (a) whether the information is about a person's public role, (b) would they expect their role to be subject to public scrutiny and (c) is there a likelihood of unwarranted damage or distress to the individual. If you have conducted extensive examinations, no doubt you have recognised that this request refers to their public roles and most of the attendees (other than very junior people) should expect their roles to be subject to scrutiny. On the question of damage or distress, the ICO document specifically says that this does NOT cover embarassment or legitimate criticism. In other words, there should be little reason for redacting the identities of (most of) the attendees.

2. I fail to see how section 40 could be used to justify the redaction of huge sections of the minutes 17-19, which I assume talk about ongoing difficulties with the programme. If there are no identifiable people, how can you justify using s40 to remove, say, virtually all of the customer feedback section. Whilst I appreciate that this information may be embarassing to the Cabinet Office and/or Fujitsu, this is a major flagship Government programme on which taxpayers are spending significant amounts of money, and if there are serious problems being expressed in customer feedback, I believe the public has a right to know.

I have already raised this case with the Information Commissioner in view of the appalling handling to date by the Cabinet Office, and shall be making these points to them. However, you may like to reconsider the redactions to the documents in advance of any formal approach from the ICO.

Finally, whilst you have now released some of the information to me, I do still have outstanding an Internal Review into the handling of this FOI request and a formal complaint about the inaction and unprofessional attitude of the FOI Team. I should be grateful for your confirmation that these are being addressed with expected response dates in both cases.

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

Cabinet Office

Dear Ms Baker

Please accept my apologies for the incomplete response. The majority of redactions in the set of documents are exempt under section 40, but there are also some exemptions under section 41 and 43.

As you say, section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act is not a blanket role, and each individual has been both considered individually and consulted. The purpose of these meetings was to give a friendly, confidential environment in which different customers could discuss their particular situations and solve problems collectively. In some cases, names have been withheld rather than removing more of the documents under section 41, information given in confidence.

As you can see, from meeting 16 the meetings and the minutes take on a different style. It is no longer possible to have any doubt where a cost or issue may lie. Since many of the contracts are still in various processes of negotiation, and since the ICF is still operating a pilot system, it was considered that some information about specific organisations could have a serious impact on the cost and effectiveness of the systems if published at this time. Section 43 of the Act, which relates to commercially sensitive information, makes allowances for this information with respect to public sector organisations as well as suppliers. Each organisation involved in the Intelligent Customer Function has made removals from these documents after conducting the public benefit test from their point of view.

Again, although this has meant some larger portions of redaction, our attempt to remove names and anonymise information under section 40 rather than to remove a greater part of it under sections 41 and 43 was made to give you as much of the information as possible.

The FOI team assures me that the review process continues, and I hope it will not be long in delivering results. I can only offer apologies that this material was not released to you when I first sent it to the FOI team many months ago.

All the best

Felicity Pickering

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Dear Ms Pickering

Thank you for your quick and informative response. It appears that you have finally managed to circumvent the logjam that is the Freedom of Information Team and I do appreciate the efforts you have gone to to try to provide me with the information I seek.

I note your comments about redacting information under sections 41 and 43 as well as section 40, but still feel that the redactions have been excessive. I am concerned in particular that there would be little for the Cabinet Office to gain from redacting positive feedback about the service from the participating departments, and that the significant redactions are to cover up concerns raised by these departments about a potentially failing programme (particularly as there seems to be significant contractual renegotiation going on). If this is the case, I believe there is a clear public interest in telling the taxpaying public what is going on rather than covering it up.

I am somewhat confused at your comment that each organisation in the Intelligent Customer Function has removed material from the minutes after conducting public interest tests. My reading of the Freedom of Information Act is that it is Cabinet Office, who are holding the information, who should determine the applicability of exemptions.

Furthermore, I would question the use of section 41 to redact information provided in confidence; section 41 specifically refers to actionable breaches of confidence, ie would, say, DIUS be able to take legal action against Cabinet Office for releasing the information. Whilst I appreciate that feedback on the service may well be sensitive, release of this does not create actionable breaches of confidence. Also, you cannot use s41 where both parties are government departments.

I do not anticipate that you will be open to releasing unredacted or less redacted versions of minutes 17 to 19, and whilst the Internal Review process drags on I presume this is in the hands of the Freedom of Information Team, and hence have little confidence of a speedy resolution. I have sent some further thoughts and comments to the Information Commissioners Office and hope that they will be able to facilitate the release of more of these minutes in due course.

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

FOR THE ATTENTION OF SUE GRAY, DIRECTOR

I am disappointed that yet again I have to chase up the Cabinet Office for the current status on my request for an Internal Review and formal complaint against the CO Freedom of Information Team.

Full details of this are available at http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/pu...

I am pleased to note that Felicity Pickering has released some of the information to me (almost 8 months after I initially requested it), but that this information was significantly and, in my opinion, excessively redacted.

Ms Pickering advised me in her message of 3rd November, now two weeks ago, that "The FOI team assures me that the review process continues, and I hope it will not be long in delivering results."

Since the Cabinet Office has been explicitly reminded by the Information Commissioner (FS50203092 - 13/10/09) of the need to respond to Internal Review requests in a timely fashion, and usually within 20 working days, please can you advise:

1. When you are intending to provide me with the outcome of the Internal Review (sent to you on 4th July, now four and a half months ago).

2. When you are intending to respond to the formal complaint I made about the performance of your FOI team, submitted to you on 2nd September (and reiterated on a number of occasions thereafter).

As you may be aware, this matter has been raised with the Information Commissioner as it appears to highlight extremely poor practice within the Cabinet Office in the handling of FOI requests. Your continued lack of attention to this matter will no doubt be noted by the Commissioner in due course.

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

FAO Sue Gray

On 4 July 2009 - some NINE MONTHS ago - I asked for an Internal Review into the handling of my Freedom of Information Act request for the minutes of the Public sector flex Intelligent Customer Function.

You acknowledged receipt of this on 13 July and informed me that you would aim to get back to me within 20 working days.

After you ignored this deadline, I chased you on 18 August and 26 August. Then I made it a complaint on 2 September (to be handled under your complaint handling procedure). I sent an email complaint to you personally on 18 September (in case the Freedom of Information Team was not passing them on to you).

I chased this up again on 2 November, in response to which I finally received some heavily redacted minutes (but no response to the request for the Internal Review).

I was advised by Felicity Pickering on 3 November that the FOI Team had assured her that "the review process continues".

Please can you tell me whether you are ever going to take your obligations under the Freedom of Information Act seriously and actually respond to my request for an Internal Review.

If you do decide to progress the Internal Review and the formal complaint, in addition to addressing the issues initially raised (some of which have been dealt with in the limited release of information), please can you also respond to my comments made to Ms Pickering on 3 November and 4 November about the inappropriate redaction of parts of this document, including:

- removing the names of all individuals from the minutes under s40, when the matters discussed were all to do with their professional roles (rather than personal), they would (or should) expect their roles to be under scrutiny and the exemption is specifically not there to hide embarrassment or legitimate criticism.

- whether the Cabinet Office determined what should be redacted (which is what should happen) or the attendees decided what to take out to prevent embarrassing material being revealed (which is what Ms Pickering implies).

- using s41 to redact material on grounds of actionable breaches of confidence, when the material has been shared between different Government departments.

I should be most grateful if you could look into this as a matter of urgency, as from the redacted minutes it appears that there have been some significant problems with this programme and I believe that the public has a right to know what is going on.

Yours faithfully,

Janine Baker

Cabinet Office

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Baker,

Please see the attached letter regarding your request for an internal review.

Kind regards,

Zara Smart
PA to Sue Gray
Propriety & Ethics Team
T (020) 7276 3540
Cabinet Office
Room 1.18
70 Whitehall London SW1A 2AS

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