Dear Croydon Borough Council,

I would like you to provide information on the tendering process to select an auction house to handle the disposal of some items from the Riesco Collection of procelain held at the Museum of Croydon.

1, When did the council first tender to auction houses for them to handle the sale of part of the Riesco Collection?

2, When was the tendering process completed and an auction house selected?

3, How many companies tendered for the rights to auction this part of the collection?

4, Who within the council was responsible for the decision to award this contract?

5, When, if ever, was the awarding of this contract discussed at full council or by the appropriate committee (and provide the appropriate meeting minutes)?

6, Please detail those auction houses who tendered for this work.

7, What is the estimated value of the fees to be paid to the auction house?

Yours faithfully,

S Downes

Freedom of Information, Croydon Borough Council

Dear Mr Downes

 

Freedom of Information Request

 

Thank you for your recent request.

 

Your request is being considered and you will receive a response within
the statutory timescale of 20 working days, subject to the application of
any exemptions. Where consideration is being given to exemptions the 20
working day timescale may be extended to a period considered reasonable
depending on the nature and circumstances of your request. In such cases
you will be notified and, where possible, a revised time-scale will be
indicated. In all cases we shall attempt to deal with your request at the
earliest opportunity.

 

There may be a fee payable for the retrieval, collation and provision of
the information requested where the request exceeds the statutory limit or
where disbursements exceed £450. In such cases you will be informed in
writing and your request will be suspended until we receive payment from
you or your request is modified and/or reduced.

 

Your request may require either full or partial transfer to another public
authority. You will be informed if your request is transferred.

 

If we are unable to provide you with the information requested we will
notify you of this together with the reason(s) why and details of how you
may appeal (if appropriate).

 

Please note that the directorate team may contact you for further
information where we believe that the request is not significantly clear
for us to respond fully.

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

Lynda Fay

FOI Co-ordinator

Croydon Council

 

Information in relation to the London Borough of Croydon is available
at [1]http://www.croydonobservatory.org/. Also responses to previous
Freedom of Information requests can also be found on the following link

[2]https://croydondata.wordpress.com/

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Freedom of Information, Croydon Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Downes

Freedom of Information Request

Please see attached the council's response to your Freedom of Information
request.

Yours sincerely

Christine Tanriverdi

FOI Coordinator
Croydon Council

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Dear Freedom of Information,

The response which you sent to me yesterday regarding the tendering for auction services for the Riesco Collection is actually an answer to a different FoI enquiry.

Can you say whether this is
(a) more deliberate delaying tactics;
(b) another routine example of council incompetence; or
(c) all of the above?

Yours sincerely,

S Downes

Freedom of Information, Croydon Borough Council

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Downes

Freedom of Information Request

Please see attached the council's response to your Freedom of Information
request.

Yours sincerely

Lynda Fay

FOI Coordinator
Croydon Council

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Dear Croydon Borough Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Croydon Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Tendering for auction services'.

You have opted for the usual default of "commercial confidentiality", when public money has been used to pay for services from an outside contractor.

The public interest in such expenditure should always over-ride the commercial interests of the outside contractor. In a case such as this, where the amounts involved may be considerable, the public interests are even greater.

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

Yours faithfully,

S Downes

Information, Croydon Borough Council

Dear Mr Downes

Thank you for your email, this has been passed on to the department that will conduct the review.

Yours sincerely

Chris Tanriverdi
Information coordinator

Chief Executive's Department
Business Support Service
InformationTeam
London Borough of Croydon
7th Floor Zone C
Bernard Weatherill House
8 Mint Walk
CR0 1EA
Tel; 020 8726 6000 – Extn 63833

show quoted sections

Derby, James, Croydon Borough Council

Dear Mr Downes

 

I write regarding your email of 28 December 2013 requesting an internal
review of the FOI response you received from the Council on 28 November
2013 regarding 'Tendering for auction services” of the Riesco collection.

 

As you will be aware, the Information Commissioner’s Office recommends
that internal reviews are undertaken within 20 working days following
receipt of the request, in other words, by 27 January 2014 as the Council.
I will be making enquiries from relevant officers of the Council about
your FOI request which will allow my consideration of the request and the
response you were provided with. I will revert to you once the
investigation is completed and has been considered in relation to the
provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

Regards

 

James Derby

Corporate Solicitor

 

 

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Derby, James, Croydon Borough Council

Dear Mr Downes

I write further to my email of 06 January 2014 acknowledging your request
for an internal review of the FOI response you received from the Council
on 28 November 2013 regarding 'Tendering for auction services” of the
Riesco collection.

In undertaking this internal review, I have examined your FOI request
contained in your email of 01 November 2013 and the Council’s response of
28 November 2013.

I have also examined the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(FOIA) and relevant guidance notes from the Information Commissioner’s
Office (ICO). Also, in the course of conducting this internal review, I
met with relevant officers regarding processing your request. My
discussions with the officers included enquiries about information held by
the Council relating to your FOI request and reviewed whether the Section
43 FOIA exemption that was applied to your request was rightly applied. I
have then set out my decision as to whether or not the Council complied
with its obligations under the FOIA.

For ease of reference I have provided the sections of your FOI request and
the Council’s responses which you are unhappy with. In your FOI request
(F/1581) you asked:

When, if ever, was the awarding of this contract discussed at full council
or by the appropriate committee (and provide the appropriate meeting
minutes)?

 

In its response, the Council replied that:

“The intention to award a contract for auction house services, subject to
sale of the items being agreed, was referred to in a report to the
Corporate Services Committee dated 24 July 2013 and can be found here:
[1]https://secure.croydon.gov.uk/akscroydon...

The decision to award was taken as detailed in the response to question 4
above under delegated authority given by the Leader of the Council on 15
July 2013. A copy of the Auction House Services Award decision form is
attached. The decision form refers to the “Confidential report of the
Executive Director of Children, Families & Learning and the Director of
Finance & s151 Officer dated 30 July 2013”. The Council considers this
report to contain information to be exempt disclosure under Section 43 (2)
of FoIA. The reasoning for this is set out in the reply to question 7
below”.

“What is the estimated value of the fees to be paid to the auction house”?

In its response, the Council replied that:

“In respect of this question and 5 above the Council considers the
requested information to be exempt under Section 43 (2) of FoIA which
states, that information is exempt information if its disclosure under
this Act would, or would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests
of any person (including the public authority holding it).  In considering
if information is exempt under Section 43 of FoIA, requires issues of
public interest to be considered as part of the process of deciding if the
requested information can be disclosed. 

 

Christies have previously advised that they consider information as to the
“…value of the fees…”  to be commercially sensitive.

 

The Council have then gone on to consider whether the public interest
nevertheless means that the information should be disclosed. While it is
acknowledged that there is a public interest in how Council obtains
commercial services, providing the requested information is not considered
to be in the public interest.  This is because the Council must be able to
obtain and exchange information within agreed levels of confidence so as
to enable the formulation and implementation of commercial activities
and/or policy.

 

The Council has also carefully weighed the issues of whether disclosure is
appropriate, and if doing so would assist in furthering issues such as
accountability, transparency and furthering public debate, against whether
releasing this information into the public domain would prejudice the
Council’s ability to negotiate and enter into contracts for the provisions
of goods and services with commercial organisations

 

However, in this respect, and in the light of Christies views stated
above, the Council consider that to provide you with the requested
information would prejudice the Council’s ability to work with commercial
organisations in the future, as they would be unwilling to enter into open
dialogue with the Council, prejudicing the Council’s ability to act,
significantly hindering the Council ability to negotiate contracts in good
faith, and obtain value for money for the tax payer.

 

Therefore, the information you have requested in questions 6 and 7 will
not be provided”.

 

Section 1 of the FOIA provides a general right of access to information
held by public authorities. Under the legislation, the public authority is
expected to conduct a search into its records (electronic and manual) to
determine if the information requested is held by the public authority.
Where the information is held, there should be a disclosure to the
requestor subject to withholding any of such information pursuant to any
of the 23 (twenty three) absolute or qualified exemptions available under
the FOIA. The qualified exemptions require the public authority to apply
the public interest test before making a decision regarding disclosing or
withholding the information.

The issues for consideration in this internal review are whether the
information you requested are held by the Council. If the answer is in the
affirmative, then the Council is obliged to disclose the information to
you save to the extent that one or more of the FOIA exemption is
available. I note that in the FOI response you received, the Council’s
Complaints Resolution Team (CRT) have applied the section 43 (2)
(commercially sensitive) exemption to some specific aspects of your
request.

 

Section 43(2) of the FOIA provides an exemption from disclosure of
information which would or would be likely to prejudice the commercial
interests of any person (including the public authority holding it). This
is a qualified exemption and is, therefore, subject to the public interest
test.

 

Section 43 (2) FOIA provides that:

 

‘Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would,
or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person
(including the public authority holding it).’

 

The term ‘commercial interests’ is not defined in the FOIA; however, the
ICO has considered it in his awareness guidance on the application of
section 43. This comments that:

 

“…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 CRT in its response to your FOI request applied the Section 43 (2)
FOIA exemption stating inter alia that information about the estimated
fees due and payable to Christie’s (auction house) is considered
commercially sensitive by Christie’s. From my discussions with officers in
the Council’s Culture, Libraries and Adult Learning team I understand that
as at the date of your FOI request (01 November 2013), Christie’s were yet
to sell the 24 items of Riesco Collection for and on behalf of the
Council; therefore disclosure of the estimated fees due to Christie’s
would prejudice their (Christies’) commercial interest as explained in the
FOI response. I was further informed that the as at the date of your FOI
request, the Council provided Christie’s with reserved prices for sale of
the 24 items of the Riesco collection. I believe that disclosure of the
reserved prices as at the time of your request will prejudice the
Council’s commercial interest as the Council would not be able to realise
competitive prices for the items if the reserved prices are in the public
domain prior to the sale of the items; therefore the Section 43 (2) FOIA
exemption was rightly applied by the CRT.

 

As you will be aware, on 27 November 2013, Christie’s at a public auction
sold 17 out of the 24 items of the Riesco Collection. The prices realised
on each item is now in the public domain. I can also confirm that the
Christie’s have also published the total sale price together with their
fees. This information is available on their website at

 

[2]http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/saleb....

 

 

If you remain dissatisfied with this decision, you may refer the matter to
the ICO.

 

The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

 

o Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

James Derby

Corporate Solicitor

Legal & Democratic Services

London Borough of Croydon

4G Bernard Weatherill House

8 Mint Walk

Croydon

CR0 1EA

Tel: 020 8760 5768 Ext. 61359

Fax: 020 8760 5679

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Mr Derby,

Many thanks for your reply dated Jan 27, to an enquiry I originally placed with Croydon Council as lon ago as Nov 1.

You may not be surprised if I remark that I believe your response to be nothing more than a filibuster, a rather lengthy defence of the withholding of information about the spending of public money by a local authority.

I shall be referring Croydon Council to the Information Commissioner over its handling of my information request.

However, I would like to bring one observation to you. In your reply, you suggest that Christie's have now published their fees on their website.

So much for commercial confidentiality, eh?

Unless I have missed something (in which case, perhaps you can direct me to the information), I can only find reference on the Christie's website to an amount including buyer's commission.

This is a commission paid by the *buyers* of items at auction.

In this instance, Croydon Council were the sellers.

The council would have been expected to pay a seller's commission to Christie's (the industry standard for this is known to be 20 per cent), as well as various other fees and disbursements relating to the storage, transportation and sale of the items at auction.

It is this information that I still request.

Given that Christie's aversion to publishing such figures on the grounds of commercial confidentiality is now transparently untrue, given their publishing of the buyer's commission, Croydon Council does not appear to have any reason for continuing to withhold such information of public interest.

Yours sincerely,

S Downes

Derby, James, Croydon Borough Council

Dear Mr Downes

Thank you for your email.

I can confirm that the Council incurred no costs for the sale of the 24 items from the Riesco collection.

Regards

James Derby

show quoted sections

Derby, James, Croydon Borough Council

Dear Mr Downes

 

I write further to your FOI request of 01 November 2013 and subsequent
correspondence particularly your complaint to the Information
Commissioner’s Office.

 

In view of the ICO’s decision notice of 16 June 2014, we hereby provide
you the following information:

 

Extracts from London Borough of Croydon 30 July 2013 confidential report
by the Cabinet member for Finance and Management

 

All bidders proposed to charge the Council zero fees for undertaking the
sale, … .

 

Charges to the Council for the undertaking of the sale

 

There are no charges payable by the Council to Christie’s for undertaking
the sale.

 

Regards

 

James Derby

Corporate Solicitor

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Dear Mr Derby,

Many thanks for your response, dated June 23, 2014, following my initial Freedom of Information request from November 2013 and the subsequent intervention of the Information Commissioner.

Given the detail provided in your response, can you now explain why it was impossible for anyone at the council to provide such an answer seven months ago?

Yours sincerely,

S Downes

Derby, James, Croydon Borough Council

Dear Mr Downes

In previous correspondence with you, the Council did inform you that it did not pay any fees to the auction house and that it held no information about any fees paid to Christies.

Regards

James Derby

show quoted sections

Dear Mr Derby,

Thank you for an unusually prompt response.

Unfortunately, again, you have not answered my question.

I asked why, if as you now claim there was no seller's commission, disbursements, insurance or other charges paid by Croydon Council to Christie's in the matter of the disposal of elements of the Riesco Collection, why the council steadfastly withheld that information for nearly four months?

From the council's earliest response to my original enquiry on November 1 last year, your colleagues were citing Section 43 exemption under the FoI Act from having to provide this information, and you were quoting Christie's reluctance to release such information as "commercially sensitive".

Indeed, in the council's response of January 27, it said, "Therefore the information you have requested ... will not be provided."

So we have a situation where the council spent more than a month going through a tendering process with three auction houses. Christie's was chosen. The sale of the public property went ahead, raising millions of pounds.

You are now stating that, having withheld the requested information on this matter for several months, that you did provide the information (you did not: the buyer's premium is paid by the buyers; Croydon Council are the sellers in this arrangement), and you further claim that the council paid Christie's no commission fee for the sale, no disbursements, no insurance or any other charges for this commercial transaction.

I will leave you to consider whether this position is in any way credible.

But my latest question was why, if Croydon Council really did benefit from a "freebie" from Christie's, it took the council several months to get round to answering my question.

I would still like a response to that point.

Yours sincerely,

S Downes

Derby, James, Croydon Borough Council

Dear Mr Downes

I believe the answers to your queries below are contained in the decision notice issued by the ICO. You may contact them for a copy if you don’t already have it.

Regards

James Derby

show quoted sections

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