Freesteel Blog » Your right to be screwed

Your right to be screwed

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006 at 10:44 am Written by:

Yes, I have the response of a Freedom of Information request to Bristol City Council relating to its publicised £8.9 million deal with Northgate Information Solutions plc, as part of some Public Private Partnership deal with international corp. Skanska to rebuild all the schools and keep the capital for no reason at all. Indeed, according to their press release, they temporarily borrow from a bank invest £4.8 million, and get back a contract with £120 million to rebuild all the schools. This £120 million of state money must be paying for 100% of the goods and services provided by the company, since no one else is using these buildings, so they are not like shared assets used by a range of customers. Anyways, reversing the trend of so many home-buyers who take on the risk and financial hardship of a large mortgage because they don’t want to rent, throw money down the drain and come out with nothing, this is precisely what the UK plc is doing in our name.

Dear Mr Todd,

writes A Marshall of Bristol City Council at 4:30pm on Friday 1 December, not a minute sooner than the 20 working days maximum as stipulated by the regulations.

I write in response to your request under the Freedom of information Act 2000 on 1 November 2006, for details of the contract Bristol City Council entered into with Northgate Information Systems PLC for the procurement of Information Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure services.

Bristol City Council entered into the contract for the provision of ICT Services for the new schools being built in the Bristol area on 3 July 2006. The contract was entered into with our chosen developers of the schools, Skanska Education Partnership, who sub-contracted the ICT work to Northgate Information Systems PLC.

In relation to your request for details of the charges for the provision of the ICT services for each school, Bristol City Council and Skanska Education Partnership has in accordance with the Freedom of Information Code of Practice identified this information in the contract as being commercially sensitive and disclosure of it would be a breach of confidence.

Bristol City Council is relying on the exemptions inS.41 and S.43 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in relation to the charges for the provision of ICT services to each school. This is because disclosure of this information would be a breach of confidence by Bristol City Council, which can be actionable by Skanska Education Partnership and, it would or would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the parties.

Although Bristol City Council wishes to be transparent and accountable to the public, it is considered that disclosure at this time would prejudice the commercial interests of the parties and could lead to legal action against the Council, as such; it would not be in the public interest to release the information at this time. It is unlikely that this information will be disclosable until 2018.

This is bollocks. Bristol City Council have no right to go round signing blanket confidentiality clauses, and then claim their hands are tied because of those clauses which they have freely signed. The law applied at the time, and you can’t simply opt out of it because you feel like it. It’s not on.

I have now sent off a new request to them. Expect a reply sometime in mid January, which is how long they’ll be able to drag their heels over this:

Dear Sir,

I understand that Bristol City Council entered into a contract on 3 July 2006 for the provision of ICT equipment with “Northgate Information Systems PLC” through the body “Skanska Education Partnership”.

I understand also that information about the charges for these services has been identified as being commercially sensitive and subject to exemptions under S41 and S43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I believe it is the case that, since the information was generated by the process of negotiation between the Council and the Suppliers, it is the property of both parties.

Section 31 of Part 1 of the DCA code of practice says: “When entering into contracts with non-public authority contractors, public authorities may be asked to accept confidentiality clauses… Public authorities should carefully consider the compatibility of such terms with their obligations under the Act.”

Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting all relevant details relating to the Council’s consideration to accept such confidentiality requirements in the contract it signed with Northgate, as well as all parts of that contract which are not considered to be commercially sensitive.

Further relevant facts:

1. According to the contract between Becta and the suppliers such as Northgate, all the Service Orders must be reported to them. Becta do not consider these reports exempt from the FOI Act, so the information is likely to be disclosed to the public through that channel sooner than 2018.

2. Section 9.1.8 of the Becta contract, it says “the Services shall comply with all applicable statutes, enactments, orders, regulations or other similar instruments as amended from time to time.”

3. The Freedom of Information Act is a well-understood statute that was in force at the time the contracts were being negotiated.

4. According to section A11.3.5 of my copy of the “Infastructure Service Order Terms”, confidentiality provisions do not apply to any information that “is required to be disclosed by law”. This means that no legal action could be taken against the Council when it complies with its obligations under the FOI Act, and the threat of such action has no place in the public interest test.

Yours etc.


  • 1. Freesteel » Blog Ar&hellip replies at 24th January 2007, 11:58 am :

    […] put in a follow-up request to Bristol Council about their educational IT procurement. In their previous response, they said they could not give me a copy of the cont […]

  • 2. Freesteel » Blog Ar&hellip replies at 28th May 2007, 3:27 pm :

    […] City Council and their educational ICT supplier (believed to be Northgate). On 1 December (page 2a) it was refused because “disclosure of this information would be […]

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