Response to the 2017 and 2014 UUK USS valuation consultations

Neil Davies made this Freedom of Information request to University of Leeds

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 refused by University of Leeds.

Dear University of Leeds,

Please provide copies of your University’s responses to the 2017 and 2014 UUK USS valuation consultations.

Yours faithfully,

Neil Davies

Jenny Foggin,

I shall be out of the office until Thursday 26 October. If your email concerns a Freedom of Information request, please contact Tracey Crombie in the Legal Adviser's Office ([email address]). If it is otherwise urgent, please contact the Secretariat General Office on 0113 343 4036 for advice.

Tracey Crombie,

Dear Mr Davies

I can confirm receipt of the request below, dated 24 October 2017, 22:05.

Your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and will be answered within twenty working days. As such, you should expect to hear from the University in response by 22 November 2017, if, in the meantime, you have any queries about the request, please don’t hesitate to contact Jenny Foggin ([email address]).

Kind regards

Tracey Crombie
PA to the Legal Adviser
University of Leeds
LS2 9JT
Tel: 0113 343 4078 (NB 8am-4pm)
Fax: 0113 343 3925

This communication is intended solely for the addressee, is strictly confidential and may also be legally privileged. If you are not the addressee please do not read, print, re-transmit, store or act in reliance on it or any attachments. Instead, please contact Tracey Crombie on the above telephone number.

Any liability (in negligence or otherwise) arising from any third party acting, or refraining from acting, on any information contained in this email is excluded.

It is the responsibility of the receiver of this email to ensure that any onward transmission or use of this email (including attachments) will not adversely affect their systems or data contained on their systems. Receivers are advised to carry out virus checks. The University of Leeds accepts no responsibility with regard to the communication or other use of this email.

Jenny Foggin,

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Davies,

As requested, I have attached the University's response to the 2014 USS web-based consultation. As noted in the minutes of the Audit and Risk Committee (18 February 2014, Minute 13/87), the response supported that returned by Universities UK. The minutes state that: 'The Committee reviewed - and endorsed - a proposed response prepared by management in respect of a consultation undertaken by the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) Trustee Board on possible changes to the administration of the USS pension scheme. Responses to the consultation were being co-ordinated by Universities UK, and the Committee also endorsed the management view that the outline UUK response should be supported.'

The University is withholding the response to the 2017 consultation at this point. The outcomes will be published in due course, so we are applying the exemption set out in Section 22 of the FoI Act which provides for information to be withheld if there is - as in this case - a 'settled intent' for its publication in due course.

I hope this is helpful in resolving your query. If you have any questions about this email, however, please don't hesitate to contact me.

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, you should write to or email directly Mr D Wardle, Deputy Secretary, The University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT ([email address]). You should do so within three months of receiving the University's response to your request. Further information about how the University manages Freedom of Information requests and about our complaints procedure is also available on our website (www.leeds.ac.uk).

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the review/complaints procedure provided by the University. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Best wishes,

Jenny

Jenny Foggin
Senior Governance and Freedom of Information Officer
Legal Adviser's Office
The University of Leeds
0113 3431155

This communication is intended solely for the addressee. If you are not the addressee please do not read, print, re-transmit, store or act in reliance on it or any attachments. Instead, please contact Tracey Crombie on the above telephone number.

Any liability (in negligence or otherwise) arising from any third party acting, or refraining from acting, on any information contained in this email is excluded.

It is the responsibility of the receiver of this email to ensure that any onward transmission or use of this email (including attachments) will not adversely affect their systems or data contained on their systems. Receivers are advised to carry out virus checks. The University of Leeds accepts no responsibility with regard to the communication or other use of this email.

Dear University of Leeds,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of University of Leeds's handling of my FOI request 'Response to the 2017 and 2014 UUK USS valuation consultations'.

Four potential exemptions to our request have been suggested. Below we discuss each in turn. All of these exemptions are subject to a public interest test which we later address.

Section 22 (1) Information intended for future publication
This exemption is for information that will be published at some future date. As part of the review, could you confirm your plans for when and how the response will be published? Please could you confirm whether it is reasonable and fair to USS members, students and tax payers, who ultimately pay for the many of the services of universities, to withhold this response under Section 22?

Section 36 (2) Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs
This exemption is for information that if released, would inhibit the free and frank exchange of views. The current discussion around the USS valuation and potential changes to the scheme are being widely discussed by many individuals, both in the press and privately in university campuses across the UK. The opinion of employers is an extremely pertinent factor in this discussion. Employees need to know and understand their employer’s position about what is reasonable for employer contributions to the USS and future benefit structure of the scheme.

In addition, Exeter and Lancaster universities have published their responses in full. This suggests that they do not believe that publishing their responses would inhibit a free and frank exchange of views. This suggests that publishing the response is unlikely to severely prejudice your institution’s ability to conduct a free and frank exchange of views.

Section 43 (2) Commercial interests
This exemption is for information that if released, would harm your institution’s commercial interests. Could you clarify how releasing your institution’s response could harm its commercial interests? For example, would it be less likely to: attract students, win research contracts, or recruit and retain staff? None of the information requested relates to competitive contracts. All Russell group universities offer the same pension. Therefore how can publication of the response affect your institution specifically?

Furthermore, Exeter and Lancaster Universities have published their responses. They face the same commercial pressures as your institution, yet have published their responses without harming their commercial interests. This suggests that publishing the response is unlikely to severely harm your institution’s commercial interests.

Public interest test
Transparency and openness
There is a substantial public interest in full transparency and openness around the process of agreeing on the valuation for the USS and potential changes to the scheme. Providing a copy of your university’s response would inform USS members, students, and members of the public about the pressures facing your institutions, its position, and its rationale for the changes it would like to see for the scheme. This would allow ordinary USS members to be involved in this process and aid collaborative decision making.

Scrutiny of spending public money
Furthermore, significant concerns have been raised about the valuation method and the process for agreeing to any changes to the scheme. Publishing your institution’s response would enable the public to better scrutinise how public money is being spent. It would also ensure that the valuation and reform process was fully open and transparent. It would provide clarity about your institution’s position, and ensure that the valuation was handled in a fair, equitable way that maximised value for money.

Suspicion of wrongdoing
Publishing your institution’s response would alleviate any suspicion of wrongdoing. For example that an institution was lobbying the USS to protect its private interests, rather than USS members’ interests. Publishing the response would provide a full picture of the pressures facing your institution and would remove any suspicion of manipulating facts or engaging in ‘spin’.

The fact that some of the responses and many universities’ summaries of their responses are available in the public domain strengthens the case for disclosure.

In the public interest
There is a strong public interest in transparency and accountability. This is particularly important to improve the public and USS members’ understanding about the pressures facing the scheme and their employers. Publishing your institution’s response will help reinforce good decision making with respect to the USS. It will uphold standards of integrity and will ensure justice and fair treatment for all. Finally, publishing the response will help secure the best use of public resources for recruiting and retaining the staff at our universities.

Of public interest
There have been numerous articles in the press about the ongoing discussions around the USS. This issue is undoubtedly of public interest.

In 2015-16 there were nearly 2.28 million students in the UK. These students have a major interest in having a well conducted pensions scheme for their tutors. There are almost 400,000 USS members who have an interest in understanding their employer’s position on the USS. All these individuals, and more, have an interest in universities in the UK maintaining a competitive and well managed pension scheme. The public at large has an interest in ensuring that public money is being well spent. Publishing the response may help achieve this.

In summary, there are unlikely to be major detrimental effects of publishing the response. There are very large potential public benefits from publishing the response. It is vital that the valuation and reform of the USS are conducted in a totally open and transparent way. Withholding the response could lead to an erosion of members’ trust. Many of the 160 signatories below have published a letter in the Financial Times calling for greater transparency over the USS. We very much hope you would be able to help achieve this.

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Neil Davies, University of Bristol

On behalf of:

Dr Jeff Round, University of Bristol
Prof Richard Morris, University of Bristol
Dr Eileen Sutton, University of Bristol
Dr Richard Parker, University of Bristol
Dr Theresa Redaniel, University of Bristol
Dr Kyla Thomas, University of Bristol
Miss Emma Cox, University of Bristol
Dr Matthew Suderman, University of Bristol
Dr Kate Northstone, University of Bristol
Dr Joanna Crichton, University of Bristol
Dr Deborah Caldwell, University of Bristol
Mr Hugh Garner, University of Bristol
Dr Emma Anderson, University of Bristol
Dr Gemma Lasseter, University of Bristol
Dr Amy Taylor, University of Bristol
Dr Andrew Wills, University of Bristol
Dr Joanna Thorn, University of Bristol
Dr Hayley Jones, University of Bristol
Dr Jon Heron, University of Bristol
Dr Alison Teyhan, University of Bristol
Dr Diana Santos Ferreira, University of Bristol
Dr Melanie Chalder, University of Bristol
Dr Raquel Granell, University of Bristol
Dr Niamh Redmond, University of Bristol
Dr José López, University of Bristol
Dr Josephine Walker, University of Bristol
Dr Esther Walton, University of Bristol
Miss Rowena Ferguson, University of Bristol
Mr Matthew Quaife, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Mr Tim Morris, University of Bristol
Dr Stephen Clark, University of Bath
Dr Sam Marsh, University of Sheffield
Prof Charles Taylor, University of Leeds
Prof Gene Feder, University of Bristol
Dr Andrew Crawford, University of Edinburgh
Dr Helen Cramer, University of Bristol
Ms Catherine Pitt, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Dr Becky Mars, University of Bristol
Mr David Troy, University of Bristol
Dr Robyn Wootton, University of Bristol
Dr Ben Cislaghi, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Ms Kate Rowley, University of Bristol
Dr Natasha Howard, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Mr Michael Crawford, University of Bristol
Dr Sarah Sullivan, University of Bristol
Prof Dennis Leech, University of Warwick
Dr Stephen Burgess, University of Cambridge
Mr Gareth Gough, University of Bristol
Dr Jemima Dooley, University of Bristol
Ms Hannah Schubert, University of Bristol
Dr Alexander Corbishley, University of Edinburgh
Prof James Davenport, University of Bath
Dr Kamie Kitmitto, The University of Manchester
Dr Hynek Pikhart, University College London
Dr Duleeka Knipe, University of Bristol
Prof Saul Jacka, University of Warwick
Dr Luisa Zuccolo, University of Bristol
Prof David Wild, University of Warwick
Prof Wilfrid Kendall, University of Warwick
Dr Laura Howe, University of Bristol
Dr Padraig Dixon, University of Bristol
Dr Ewart Shaw, University of Warwick
Prof David Firth, University of Warwick
Dr Jere Koskela, University of Warwick
Dr Murray Pollock, University of Warwick
Dr Julia Brettschneider, University of Warwick
William Hollingworth, University of Bristol
Prof Yoav Ben-Shlomo, University of Bristol
Leanne Kupers, University of Bristol
Dr Patricia Lucas, University of Bristol
Dr Rachael Hughes, University of Bristol
Prof Bianca De Stavola, University College London
Dr Dario Spano, University of Warwick
Miss Daisy Gaunt, University of Bristol
Dr Suzanne Ingle, University of Bristol
Mrs Anne Rennie, University of Bristol
Dr Maria Clara Restrepo Mendez, University of Bristol
Dr Ana Luiza Soares, University of Bristol
Ms Alison Denny, University of Bristol
Dr Charlotte Davies, University of Bristol
Miss Amy Davies, University of Bristol
Dr Lotte Houtepen, University of Bristol
Mr Michael Holmes, University of Edinburgh
Dr Martin Lopez-Garcia, University of Leeds
Prof Alastair Rucklidge, University of Leeds
Dr Carmen Molina-Paris, University of Leeds
Dr Vladimir Kisil, University of Leeds
Dr Nicola Gambino, University of Leeds
Dr Jan Palczewski, University of Leeds
Prof Steven Tobias, University of Leeds
Dr Michael Dalili, University of Bristol
Dr Robert Aykroyd, University of Leeds
Dr David Carslake, University of Bristol
Dr Alun Coker, University College London
Prof James Speight, University of Leeds
Dr Mike Evans, University of Leeds
Dr Ruth Colson, University of Bristol
Prof Steven Julious, The University of Sheffield
Dr Laura Johnson, University of Bristol
Dr Miranda Armstrong, University of Bristol
Dr Johannes Nordstrom, University of Bath
Dr Tiziano De Angelis, University of Leeds
Dr Derek Harland, University of Leeds
Ms Kerry Humphries, University of Bristol
Dr Suzanne Trill, University of Edinburgh
Dr Clare England, University of Bristol
Dr Shereen Benjamin, University of Edinburgh
Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia, University College London
Miss Kate Banfield, University of Bristol
Dr James Woodcock, University of Cambridge
Ms Ruth Dar, University College London
Dr Éamonn Murray, Imperial College London
Prof Sian Harding, Imperial College London
Dr David Briggs, Imperial College London
Prof Paul Luckham, Imperial College London
Mrs Michele Foot, Imperial College London
Prof Matthew Jackson, Imperial College London
Dr David Clements, Imperial College London
Dr David Wilson, Imperial College London
Dr Eduardo Coutinho, University of Liverpool and Imperial College London
Dr Huw Williams, Imperial College London
Prof Ben Sauer, Imperial College London
Prof Klaus Hellgardt, Imperial College London
Dr Shahin Tavakoli, University of Warwick
Ms Kay Hancox, Imperial College London
Dr Valerie Good, Imperial College London
Prof Martin Buck, Imperial College London
Dr Andrew Shevchuk, Imperial College London
Dr Robert Zimmerman, Imperial College London
Prof Daniel Elson, Imperial College London
Miss Joanne Chaffin, Imperial College London
Prof Ian Hodkinson, Imperial College London
Dr Bradley Ladewig, Imperial College London
Mr Peter Haycock, Imperial College London
Prof Paul Kelly, Imperial College London
Dr Roberto Rinaldi Sobrinho, Imperial College London
Miss Silvana Zappacosta, Imperial College London
Mr Stephen Condliffe, University of Bristol
Ms Trudy Breuss, Imperial College London
Prof Tim Cole, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health
Mr Denis Murphy, Imperial College London
Dr Joao Cabral, Imperial College London
Dr Laura Griffin, Imperial College London
Prof Matthew Foulkes, Imperial College London
Dr Simak Ali, Imperial College London
Mr Andrew Thomas, Imperial College London
Mrs Sibylle Moulin, Imperial College London
Mr Roddy Slorach, Imperial College London
Mr Ronny Pini, Imperial College London
Dr Robert MacCallum, Imperial College London
Prof Yannis Hardalupas, Imperial College London
Dr Peter DiMaggio, Imperial College London
Dr Gemma Taylor, University of Bristol
Mr Martin Eden, Imperial College London
Dr Yann Sweeney, Imperial College London
Dr Ruth Misener, Imperial College London
Prof Ulrik Egede, Imperial College London
Prof Jenny Nelson, Imperial College London
Dr Adam Johansen, University of Warwick

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

David Wardle,

Dear Mr Davies,

I note your request for an internal review of the University’s handling of your FoI request: 'Response to the 2017 and 2014 UUK USS valuation consultations’. I apologise for the delay in letting you know the outcome of my review.

Although you have cited a number of potential exemptions to your request, I note that this University has only applied the one - Section 22(1): Information for future publication.

I have tested the University’s Executive on this matter and am reassured that the University does have a settled intention to publish its response to the UUK consultation (as it did its response to the similar 2014 exercise); however, it does not as yet have a fixed timeframe for doing so.

In applying Section 22, we have taken into account that this decision is in line with usual and accepted University practice in this area. We also believe that it is fair to all concerned. Discussions regarding the USS are ongoing, and we are already engaged in meaningful communication with our staff (https://www.leeds.ac.uk/forstaff/news/12...).

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner. The Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely

David Wardle

****************************
David Wardle
Deputy Secretary
Secretariat
EC Stoner Building
University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT

0113 34(3 4452)

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Dear Mr Wardle,

Thanks for the reply. I've appealed this decision to the ICO.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Davies