Freesteel Blog » What’s a Local Education Partnership Program?

What’s a Local Education Partnership Program?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007 at 11:50 am Written by:

How the heck would anybody know? But I’ve got this email back relating to my dogged FOI requests to Bristol City Council alluding to this entity fabricated for the purposes of sucking up money while filtering out public accountability through a series of confidentiality clauses. There’s a simple principle here. It’s the public’s money, so the public has the right to know how much is spent, and what they’re getting for it. Any attempts to hide this information is an admission that the public isn’t going to like what they see, when they eventually get to see it.

I find that governments know instinctively what the public does and does not want them to do; that’s how they know what to hide and what to publicize. Ergo, if they publicize everything, there’s a good chance we will get more of what we want.

So, here’s what I got back from T.S., Corporate Complaints Manager of Bristol Council on 6 March (copying a 7 February email that got lost in my spam folder):

I am now in a position to respond to your complaint made in accordance with the “Fair Comment” complaints procedure.

However, before responding to the points you have raised, both in your complaint of 25 January 2007 and your email to K.A. of 24th January 2007, it would appear that there is some confusion which I should first address.

You say in your request of 3 December 2006 that Bristol City Council entered into a contract…with Northgate Information Systems through the body Skanska Education Partnership. This is not correct. Bristol City Council have a contract with LEP (The Local Education Partnership Programme). The LEP have subcontracted to Skanska and Skanska have subcontracted to Northgate. As a result, it would appear that the details you are seeking are of the sub contract between Skanska and Northgate.

In your request of 3 December 2006 you go on to request “details relating to the Council’s consideration to accept such confidentiality requirements in the contract it signed with Northgate”. As stated above, I can confirm that there is no contract between Bristol City Council and Northgate.

Unfortunately there may have been some confusion, as M.O. has confirmed that Section 41(Information provided in confidence) and 43 (Commercial Interests) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, apply to requests made for the charges for the provision of ICT services to each school. However these exemptions have been applied to information contained in the contract between Bristol City Council and LEP (that is held by Bristol City Council), rather than between BCC and Northgate (as requested, but which does not exist).

In relation to the contract between BCC and LEP, section 41 is engaged, as the Council has entered into a contract with LEP confirming that this particular information will not be disclosed. If we were to disclose this particular information, this could be an actionable breach of confidence. I can also confirm that section 43 is engaged as disclosure of this particular information would prejudice the commercial interests of the parties involved. Although the City Council wishes to be transparent and accountable to the public, it would not be in the public interest to disclose this information at this time as the Council would make itself vulnerable to an actionable breach of confidence and the commercial interests of the parties involved would be prejudiced.

Also M.O. was to forward you details of the contract, which were not deemed to be commercially sensitive. However the contract to which M.O. referred, is again the contract between BCC and LEP. Of course we can send you this information if you require it, however it would now appear that your request related to a contract between Skanska and Northgate, rather than BCC and LEP.

I can also confirm that we do not hold a copy of any contract between Becta and Northgate therefore the exemption quoted in accordance with section 21 (Accessible by other means) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was unnecessary. Quite simply the Council do not hold this information, so are unable to disclose it to you, however this information may be accessible to you by other means, if you were to approach Becta or Northgate for a copy.

It has been confirmed by J.M., Senior Solicitor, involved in this matter, that the issues of confidentiality and Freedom of information were considered and addressed in drafting the contract between BCC and LEP. However we are unable to provide you with written documentation of this as any documents relating to this specific point are contained within the many un-indexed boxes storing the very large number of documents relating to this matter and it is estimated that to locate and provide you with this information would exceed the appropriate limit (18 hours). I can confirm that approximately five hours have already been spent dealing with your requests.

I would suggest that you now direct your request towards Skanska or Northgate for details of the contract between these organisations. I apologise for any confusion and confirm that any further request made for information held by the Council relating to its contract with LEP will be responded to appropriately, within the time limit, subject to relevant exemptions.

It’s that final paragraph that pisses me off more than all the rest of it put together. T.S. suggests that I direct my request to Skanska or Northgate, knowing that such a request is a complete waste of my time since these are private corporations which have no duty of accountability to the public, in spite of the fact that they thrive on significant quantities of public money from which they make vast profits whilst delivering substandard services. So it goes.

Dear Sir,

I remain in pursuit of the pricing agreement called a “Service Order” apparently signed in July 2006 whereby Northgate Information Systems is to supply Bristol City Council with ICT equipment worth at least £8.9million, as announced in its press release of 4 July 2006.

By law all government procurement contracts above the value of £100thousand must either go through the European tendering system, or fall within the terms of a framework contract, such as that signed between Becta and Northgate which was belatedly announced on 27 September 2006. I hold a copy of this contract and, whether or not Bristol City Council holds a copy as well, I have reason to believe that, given the size and lack of compliance withe OJEU regulations, the deal with Northgate is bound by it.

Bristol City Council’s resistance to my right to know this information is on record. So far I have been told of confidentiality clauses for which the justifying paperwork has been lost, received responses only at the statutory limits, had my statements of fact deliberately misunderstood, been cited exemptions which do not apply, and been recommended to divert my inquiries towards private bodies where it is known they will fail. I have also been made aware of what I consider to be a series of shells, such as “Local Education Partnership” and “Skanska Education Partnership”, about which there is no available public documentation, and through which public money is channeled in the absence of public accountability.

So, without further ado, I am requesting, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the following information which “transparent and accountable” council would have outlined on its website in the first place:

1. A copy of the full contract as it stands between “Bristol City Council” and the “Local Education Partnership”, which Tim Sheppard’s told me was available to FOI users in his email to me on 6 March 2006.

2. The list of people on its governing body, evidence of legal independence of the council if there is any, and any available accounts so far, and an explanation of what it means for it to have a “commercial interest”.

3. All relevant details of the statutory duties of the “Local Education Partnership” in relation to the Freedom of Information Act.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. I would be happy to receive any part of this information at the earliest available opportunity via email or hyperlink if it gets posted up on your webpage.

Thank you,
Julian Todd

4 Comments

  • 1. Kaveman’s Daily Fee&hellip replies at 20th March 2007, 1:18 pm :

    […] ership. This is not correct. Bristol City Council have a contract … Original post by Julian

    No Comments […]

  • 2. Francis Irving replies at 21st March 2007, 12:18 am :

    Go Julian!

  • 3. ravi replies at 21st March 2007, 7:28 pm :

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  • 4. Freesteel » Blog Ar&hellip replies at 13th April 2007, 12:12 pm :

    […] ver FOI response I have ever seen
    April 13th, 2007 by Julian

    Following the request made last month for information about how Bristol […]

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