Dear Information Commissioner (ICO)
1 I recently wrote to the Cabinet Office (see below) about Community Interest Companies and the Freedom of Information Act.
“I have a general question about “spin outs” of directly provided public services from central/local government to Mutuals/CIC/SEs etc. I queried whether the Community Interest Company being created here would be FOI-able and received the reply below (in blue) from “Somerset Skills and Learning (SS&L)” which is in the process of becoming a Community Interest Company.
Just to confirm that I have checked the status of the new company with our legal advisors and they have confirmed that the CIC will not be classed as a public company, and therefore it will not be subject to the FOI act.
I understand that the Cabinet Office Mutual Support programme has been assisting SS&L?
Has the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) issued any information, advice and guidance (notes) to the Cabinet Office (Mutual Support programme) about Social Enterprises and Community Interest Companies (spin outs etc.)?
As I understand it the prospective CIC will be almost totally funded by the Education Funding Agency and the Skills Funding Agency.
Can you please advise (or seek the ICO’s advice?) whether CICs mainly or totally funded by the public can (should) be added to Schedule 1 (Part IV Maintained schools and other educational institutions and/or part vi Other public bodies and offices: general) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?”
2 We received a reply recently from the Cabinet Office which noted that:
“On your questions though I’m afraid we’re not aware of any ICO guidance that is specific to spin-outs or social enterprises. However, as many of the principles are similar, we would expect the guidance that applies to contracted-out services more generally to be broadly applicable in this instance as well.”
3 a) Can you confirm whether the ICO has issued any Information, Advice and Guidance notes about SEs and CICs?
3 b) Has the ICO considered whether bodies created (similar to the above) with largely public funds should be covered or included (Schedule 1 FOIA)?
3 c) If not, will the ICO be able to provide updated guidance on CICs (SEs) being operated by public funds and providing public services?
(Unite – Somerset County)