FOI request (FOI-77031939)
Requested Wed 30 May 2018
Responded Mon 18 June 2018
I am investigating the extent to which councils in the UK are able to dispose of museum artefacts to raise money.
I'd like to request the following information under FOI.
If your office is responsible for multiple councils, please treat this as a separate FOI request to each council.
- How many museums does your council run?
- How many items are there in your museums' collections? What is their combined value?
- How many of those items are currently on display? What is their combined value?
- For each of the last four financial years, ending with 2017/18
How many items have been
sold by your museums? What is the sum of money those
sales have raised?
- How much of that money was kept within museums rather than going to other parts of the council?
- How many items have been bought by your museums? How much, in total, was paid for them?
- Over the last four years, what is the single biggest amount raised by selling an item? What was the item in question? How and to whom was it sold?
- Even if no sales have been made, has the council considered selling any of its collection at any point over the last four years?
To be clear - I am only interested in items in the museums' collection of historical artefacts. I am not interested in how much the museum is spending on buying and selling items like cleaning products, pens or computer equipment.
Q1 - One
Q2 - Over 100,000 individual items.
Notice of Refusal
Please note that I consider the information you have requested concerning the value of items in our Museum to be exempt information under S31(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act in that disclosure of that information would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime.
The exemption afforded by S31(1)(a) is subject to what is known as the 'public interest test'. When applying the test in a particular case a public authority is deciding whether the public interest is better served by non-disclosure than by disclosure.
Although the Freedom of Information Act does not define 'in the public interest', there is a presumption under Freedom of Information that openness is in the public interest. In applying the public interest test a public authority will take into account the distinction that has been often made by courts between things that are in the public interest, and things that merely interest the public. Where applicants have not identified public interest considerations succinctly or accurately, the public authority has a responsibility under the Act to make their own assessment of the public interest considerations in the particular case.
We have identified the following public interest factors that may be seen as encouraging the disclosure of information:
a) furtherance of understanding and participation in the public debate of issues of the day
b) promotion of accountability and transparency by public authorities in the decision they make and the spending of public money
c) allowing individuals and companies to better understand decisions made by public authorities which affect their lives
We consider these factors to be generally of limited or no relevance in relation to the information in question.
Public interest factors seen as encouraging non-disclosure are, generally, the exemptions themselves. In consideration of this matter we came to the following conclusions:
a) that there is no evidence of a wider public (rather than individual) interest in disclosureb) that the disclosure of the information would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crimec) that the nature of such prejudice is real and substantial and that there is a real and significant risk of such prejudiced) that crime associated with valuable works of art whether owned by organisations, has a substantial detrimental effect upon other individuals in the neighbourhood and wider communitye) that the motives behind the request (albeit not provided to us) have no relevance since disclosure would mean the information would be in the public domain
In weighing the factors for and against disclosure we have concluded that the likely benefit to the applicant and the wider public of disclosure is outweighed by the likely prejudice caused by such disclosure and that therefore the public interest is better served by non-disclosure.
Q3 - Displays change - around 5,000. Cannot give value
Q4 - No sales
Q5 - Sales not considered
Freedom of Information