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Board minutes and the business plan

Request for information – FOI14466


Thank you for your email of 15 May 2014, requesting the following information from Ordnance Survey in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA):

A. Would it be possible to get the most recent management business plan for Ordnance Survey?
B. In addition, are you able to provide board minutes for the last 3 board meetings?

Our response

I confirm that Ordnance Survey does hold the requested information, but regret that this information is exempt from disclosure under Section 43 (2) of the FOIA, Commercial Interests and Section 36 (2) (b) (i) and (ii) of the FOIA, Prejudice to Effective Conduct of Public Affairs exemption. These are detailed below:

Section 43
The Information Commissioner recognises that some public authorities are permitted to engage in commercial activities and that information held in relation to these will fall within the scope of Section 43.

We consider that the exemption under Section 43 (2) applies to your point A because the market sector in which Ordnance Survey operates is highly competitive and the disclosure of information relating to commercial and strategic planning, such as that contained in the business plan, undermines the organisation’s market position. This, in turn, affects the revenue stream, making it difficult for Ordnance Survey to maintain its public task as no direct funding is received from Parliament.

Similarly, the minutes of Ordnance Survey board meetings (your point B) record the governance thought process and the organisation’s strategy with reference to current macro-economic conditions. Disclosure of this information would be detrimental to Ordnance Survey’s commercial interests given the competitive nature of the industry segment in which Ordnance Survey operates.

Overall, we are satisfied that there is greater public interest in withholding the information under this exemption. Ordnance Survey recognises the need for transparency. However, this has to be balanced against the public interest in allowing the organisation to protect its commercial information and not place itself at a disadvantage in the specialist market in which Ordnance Survey operates.

Private sector bodies operating in the same market segment are not bound by the FOIA and are therefore not disadvantaged by the potential disclosure of similar commercial information.

Consequently, we will not be releasing this information.

Section 36
We additionally consider that the exemptions under Section 36 (2) (b) (i) and (ii) apply to your point B. Despite the fact that Ordnance Survey is a non-ministerial government department, reporting to Parliament through ministers, it operates as a trading fund with delegated responsibility for financial and business planning.

This delegation includes the internal operation of our Board and its deliberations which are recorded in the minutes you have requested. The application of the exemption under Section 36 requires the consultation of a “qualified person”. Following consultation, it is the opinion of the qualified person that detailed public knowledge of the substance of the Board meeting minutes would, in the future, inhibit:

  • the free and frank provision of advice;
  • the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.

The qualified person is therefore satisfied that there is public interest in favour of withholding the information. Potential disclosure makes it less likely that individuals will be prepared to engage freely in discussions, thus hampering the ability of the organisation to reach collegiate decisions in the public interest.

Consequently, we will not be releasing this information.

Internal review

Your enquiry has been processed according to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000. If you are unsatisfied with the response, you may request an internal review with Ordnance Survey’s FOI Internal Review Officer, by contacting them at the following address:

FOI Internal Review Officer
Customer Service Centre
Ordnance Survey
Adanac Drive
SO16 0AS

Email: foi@os.uk

Please include the reference number above. You may request an internal review where you believe Ordnance Survey has:

  • Failed to respond to your request within the time limits (normally 20 working days)
  • Failed to tell you whether or not we hold the information
  • Failed to provide the information you have requested
  • Failed to explain the reasons for refusing a request
  • Failed to apply an exemption or exception correctly

The FOI Internal Review Officer will not have been involved in the original decision. They will conduct an independent internal review and will inform you of the outcome of the review normally within 20 working days, but exceptionally within 40 working days, in line with the Information Commissioner’s guidance.
The FOI Internal Review Officer will either: uphold the original decision, provide an additional explanation of the exemption/s applied or release further information, if it is considered appropriate to do so.

Appeal to Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)
If, following the outcome of the internal review you remain unsatisfied with our response, you may raise an appeal with the Information Commissioner’s Office at:

The Case Reception Unit
The Customer Service Team
The Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane

Email: mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone helpline: 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745 for advice, Monday to Friday.

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