EXCLUSIVE: Gov’t department asked transparency website to remove FoI response

Janet Downs's picture

 The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), the unit within the Department for Education (DfE) which deals with school funding, asked the website WhatDoTheyKnow to remove a Freedom of Information response which the ESFA claimed had been sent in error. 

The document which the ESFA says was disclosed by mistake appeared in an internal review of the DfE’s handling of my FoI request asking about an unsatisfied ‘charge’ held by the defunct Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy Trust.  The DfE had initially claimed it did not hold the requested information.  

I had not been convinced the DfE would have no details of a charge held by an academy trust.  Such charges are there to protect public investment in freehold land owned by some academy and free school trusts.  It should be expected the DfE would keep records of transactions worth millions of pounds.  Discovering that the DfE doesn’t hold information about one such charge suggests a worrying level of incompetence. 

WhatDoTheyKnow refused to remove the FoI response.  It argued displaying the document was in the public interest.  The ESFA relented and provided a redacted copy removing names of junior staff.  The redacted copy has now replaced the original.

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