Manchester City Council has refused to put a specific number on its financial support for the “Steering Group”. While it has given the group over £ 100k, the Council has performed precisely zero cost-benefit analysis of what it is getting for that money.
While the Council has conceded that it gave the group a total of £30,999 in financial year 2015-6 (In 2014-5 it was £24,663.20, in 2016-17 it is – £27,000) it has so far refused to release an exact wages bill for the 1.8 Full Time Equivalent staff who have been seconded from the Council to work for the Steering Group, now a Community Interest Company.
The Council admits it has the information but isn’t going to release it (without a fight). The grounds? It claims it is “unable” to comply because the number is “exempt” on grounds of personal information (see below).
Instead of this information, which would say nothing about individual pay, the council has provided… the pay bands of the two staff, which is actually more personal information than would have been released if the Council had replied to the question with a straightforward number! MCFly is writing to the Council to request the basic information it asked for (see the bottom of this blog post for that email). If no joy, well, off to the Information Commissioner we go…
Back in April MCFly asked “The total value of the wages paid to Council staff from the beginning of their secondment, up until 13th April 2016.”
The reply said: “I confirm that the Council does hold the information that you have requested. However, having carefully considered the matter, the Council has determined that it is unable to comply with your request. This is because the requested information is exempt from disclosure under the following absolute exemption:
Section 40 Personal Information. This exemption applies because you have made a request for information which comprises or contains personal information about a third party. The Council has determined that the information relating to the third party should not be disclosed because disclosure would contravene one or more of the data protection principles under the Data Protection Act 1998, including the first principle that requires that information should be processed lawfully and fairly. This information is therefore exempt under sub-section 40(3)(a)(i). The Council is able to provide you with the grades and salary bandings of the officers that your enquiry relates to. These are outlined below.
Grade 9 £36,571 – £40,217
Grade 11 £44,143 – £47,240″
And here is the email that was sent to them last night.
Dear Sir /Madam,
thank you for your reply on May 12th
Re Information Request GAN/A82JS8.
I am writing to request an internal review with regards to the second question.
“The total value of the wages paid to Council staff from the beginning of their secondment, up until 13th April 2016.”
I do not believe that the exemption (40, personal information) that you cite applies in this case. Why? I am actually simply asking for a total aggregate number, NOT one that is broken down into the bill for the two staff.
Further, by informing me of their pay grades (which I did not previously know) and the pay bands for those pay grades (which I also did not know), you have breached their personal information MORE than you would have done so by simply providing a simple number. This simple number might of course have been perceived to be politically embarrassing, but that is NOT an exemption in the FOIA, as far as I am aware. If it is, please provide the number of that exemption.
Please also inform me of the time frame for the internal review. Thank you for the contact details of the Information Commissioner in the case that the internal review does not actually release this very simple information, which you have already stated that you have. (I had these contact details already – if you remember, I had to complain to them because Manchester City Council took a year to respond to a previous FoIA from me.) There is another FoIA that you are overdue on, but I’ll save that for another letter.