FOI release

Request for information about academy brokers: annual costs, pay rates, contract lengths, schools visited most frequently and formal complaints

Details of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the spend on academy brokers, their names and pay rates, the schools visited, and brokers who have received formal complaints.

Document

Details

  • Date requested: 28 May 1023
  • Publish date: 25 June 2013

Request:

  1. Provide information on how much has been spent on academy brokers in the past 10 years, broken down by year.
  2. Provide the names and pay rates of these academy brokers, and the date/length of their government contract.
  3. Provide a list of the 10 schools that have received the most visits from academy brokers in the past year, stating how many times they have been visited.
  4. Provide the names of the 6 academy brokers who have received formal written complaints in the last year, and confirm whether they are still employed as academy brokers by the Department for Education.

Release

The department holds information on how much has been spent on academy brokers in the past 3 years but does not hold the spend for the 7 years prior to that.

  • The budget for 2010 to 2011 was £1,497,856.
  • The budget for 2011 to 2012 was given in PO HL 5618.
  • The budget for 2012 to 2013 was given in PQ 158108.

Some of the information has been released and some of the information has been withheld under section 43 and section 40 of the act.

Section 43 provides for information to be exempt from disclosure where disclosure under this act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person. This exemption requires a public interest test to be carried out, to determine whether the public interest in withholding the information, outweighs the public interest in its release.

The awarding of contracts to external bodies involves the expenditure of public funds. There is a strong public interest in ensuring transparency in this process and in there being accountability for publicly spent money within the department. This is to ensure that public money is being used effectively and that the department is getting value for money. It is also important to ensure that procurement processes are conducted in an open and honest way.

However, the general public interest in releasing the information requested must be balanced against the public interest in protecting commercially sensitive information.

The release of pay rates would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the contractors providing the service. The disclosure of this information could also prejudice the department’s commercial interests by adversely affecting the bargaining position during future contractual negotiations, which could result in the less effective use of public money. It is therefore considered that it is not in the public interest to disclose information relating to the detailed breakdown of tenders, as it is not already publicly known and would be likely to be used by competitors in a particular market to gain a competitive advantage.

We are therefore withholding the following:

Individual day rates under Section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, because it is considered to be commercially sensitive information.

The brokers’ current contracts run until March 31st 2014.

In May 2012 the department published information on off payroll engagements worth £58,200 per annum and this includes companies employing brokers paid more than this amount employed with the department in January 2012. This information can be found on the department’s website on the Tax arrangements publication page.

We have placed an updated version for academy brokers in the House of Commons Library.

Academy brokers are listed as education advisers. Engagement lengths are also detailed here. Contracts are reviewed on a regular basis.

The department requires special expertise for the broker role that it cannot find within the civil service. Their expertise needs to be deployed flexibly in different parts of the country. These and other needs are best secured through a contracted service. This type of engagement also achieves value for money for the taxpayer; it would be far more expensive to employ brokers on permanent terms. The department has reduced day rates significantly since 2010 and will continue to do so.

On point 3 of the request, the department holds the information requested. However, the department estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the cost threshold applicable to central government. This is £600 and represents the estimated cost of 1 person spending 3.5 working days locating, retrieving and extracting the information.

Under section 12 of the act the department is therefore not obliged to comply with the request and will not be processing it further.

However, if a new request was to be made for a narrower category of information, the department may be able to comply within the cost limit, although we cannot guarantee that this will be the case.

It may help if we outline some possible ways of narrowing the request, such as naming a particular school or schools, and requesting how many visits brokers have made to that school.

The names and other personal information, within point 4 of the request, is being withheld because it is exempt under Section 40(2) of the act which provides for data protection principles under the Data Protection Act 1998. This is an absolute exemption and requires no public interest consideration.