The OLM Group, fee negotiations and the Freedom of Information Act

Year Published: 2011

As the Government strives to reduce its budgetary deficit – many local authorities are seeking to unilaterally change the level of fees paid to health and social care providers. In many cases, this breach of contract is creating a challenging time for providers as costs increase and income decreases. But what can be done?

Many local authorities are introducing financial consultants to assist in the reduction of fees paid to providers; organisations such as OLM are becoming heavily involved in these negotiations where, for example, care home operators have to provide information relating to their own business activities. This appears to be a one-way-relationship with providers having to “hand-over” confidential information relating to their business practices and yet local authorities appearing to hide behind their own bureaucracy.

The answer is not as clear as perhaps anticipated; however, a recent decision by the Information Commissioner may be able to assist providers.

The Information Commissioner recently reported that Brent Council had failed to comply with the Freedom of Information Act. In the particular case, the Council had refused to provide information relating to the number of placements that OLM were dealing with together with “documentation relating to the project with which OLM were involved and the criteria adopted by the local authority to decide which providers should be asked to provide information to OLM”.

The Council argued that such information was not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and, therefore, did not need to be disclosed. Further arguing that disclosure of such information would jeopardise the “commercial interests” of the Council. However, the information that was requested was not the subject of a “trade secret” and that contractual confidentiality provisions did not override the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. As a result, the information had to be disclosed.

Although not a full step in the direction hoped by providers; the decision should give hope to providers who may find themselves in a situation involving OLM and fee negotiations.

Transcript

A full transcript of the Information Commissioner’s decision can be found here.

The OLM Group

OLM is a leading supplier of technology and support solutions to adult and children’s services and the health sector. Their aim is to deliver software and support services which help our customers protect and improve the wellbeing of people in need.

For further information please contact Kaye Whitby in our Corporate team on 0844 391 5832.

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