ICO issues 2nd decision notice stating Wirral Council breached more laws in how it handled a FOI request

                                          

ICO Information Commissioner's Office logo

ICO Information Commissioner’s Office logo

So far I’ve written three blog posts about this one FOI request, which in chronological order are ICO issues decision notice stating Wirral Council breached 4 laws in how it handled a FOI request (9th September 2014), Wirral Council take nearly 20 months to respond to a FOI request for SACRE meeting minutes that should only take 20 days (10th November 2014) and Why after 2 years, 3 months and 19 days have Wirral Council U-turned on refusing a FOI request for minutes of a public meeting that they claimed was vexatious? (18th July 2015).

The FOI request this relates to was made through the excellent whatdotheyknow.com website on the 29th March 2013. It’s for minutes of the meetings of 26 different panels, statutory committees, advisory committees and working parties that councillors are appointed to by Wirral Council.

In September 2014, the Information Commissioner’s Office issued 9 page decision notice FS50509081. In a nutshell that decision notice stated that by the 13th October 2014 Wirral Council had to:

a) respond to the FOI request without relying on either section 12(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 c.36 or Regulation 12(4)(b) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. The first relates to a costs exemption and the second relates to that “the request for information is manifestly unreasonable”.

and

b) advise whether it held the minutes of these meetings or not.

Wirral Council did not respond to the decision notice by the 13th October 2014. Instead it took a further three weeks than was allowed and Wirral Council responded on the 4th November 2014. Minutes of seven meetings were supplied (some minutes were supplied with some information blacked out). In response to other parts of the request it provided links to its website.

This left nine disputed parts of the request which were in relation to the bodies below (I’ll use the original numbering). JCC stands for Joint Consultative Committee and Members means councillors. I provide under each one what it’s remit was:

4 (School Appeals Panel)

To consider, as part of a statutory review process, appeals against decisions by the Local Authority (or the Governors of voluntary or aided schools) concerning the allocation of places in primary and secondary schools, and decisions by governing bodies concerning the exclusion of pupils.

The School Appeals Panel is drawn from a “pool” of lay members or members with experience in education. However, Councillors are ineligible to serve on Appeals Panels for schools under local authority control.

5 (Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education (SACRE))

SACRE is responsible for advising the local authority on matters concerning the teaching of religious education and collective acts of worship; it decides on applications for determination of cases in which requirements for Christian collective worship are not to apply; and may require the local authority to review its agreed syllabus.

8 (Adoption / Fostering Panels)

As part of a wider membership, to determine applications for the adoption and for the fostering of children.

10 (Unified Waiting List Management Advisory Board)

To consider appeals from applicants who consider they have been unfairly treated or unfairly excluded from the waiting list, having exhausted the Steering Group appeals procedure.

11 (Discharge from Guardianship by Wirral Council under the Mental Health Act 1983 Panel)

To hear requests to discharge service users subject to guardianship upon the application of a professional responsible for their care.

15 (Headteachers and Teachers JCC)

To meet with headteachers’ and teachers’ representatives to discuss educational issues.

18 (Members’ Training Steering Group)

To advise on the preparation of the annual programme of training for Council members and on individual applications to attend courses.

19 (Members’ Equipment Steering Group)

To review IT equipment provision for members.

26 (Safeguarding Reference Group)

Established by Cabinet on 15 April 2010 for the purpose of ensuring that the most senior community leaders of the Council are enabled to carry out their responsibilities of safeguarding children and adults in Wirral.

Minutes of a School Appeals Panel meeting (part 4 of the request) were refused based on section 40 (personal information) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Minutes of a Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education meeting (part 5 of the request) were provided but with names other than that of councillors blacked out based on section 40 (personal information) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Minutes of the Adoption/Fostering Panels (part 8 of the request) were refused based on section 40 (personal information) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Minutes of a Unified Waiting List Management Advisory Board meeting (part 10 of the request) Wirral Council merely stated “Officers are investigating if this Board has ever met/if there are any minutes available and we will answer this part of your enquiry as soon as possible.”

Minutes of a Discharge from Guardianship by Wirral Council under the Mental Health Act 1983 Panel (part 11 of the request) were refused based on section 40 (personal information) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Minutes of a Headteachers and Teachers Joint Consultative Committee meeting were refused based on section 36 (prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Minutes of a Members’ Training Steering Group meeting were refused based on section 36 (prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Minutes of a Members’ Equipment Steering Group meeting were refused based on section 36 (prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Finally, minutes of a Safeguarding Reference Group meeting were refused based on section 40 (personal information) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

So I requested an internal review of the application of these exemptions on the 12th November 2014. On the 30th April 2015 Wirral Council responded to the internal review request. I’ll point out here that internal reviews are supposed to be completed within 40 days, but Wirral Council took 5 months.

Wirral Council’s response was that section 14 (vexatious or repeated requests) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 applied and it didn’t have to do an internal review.

This decision was then appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

On the 17th July 2015, Wirral Council did a U-turn. In respect of part of the internal review that challenged obscuring names (other than councillors) in minutes released of the Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education (part 5 of the request), I’d pointed out that the minutes of this public meeting were open to public inspection because of regulation 7 of the Religious Education (Meetings of Local Conferences and Councils) Regulations 1994. Wirral Council agreed with me and released the complete minutes of the SACRE meeting (which meets in public).

Wirral Council also pointed out that since the Council’s housing stock was transferred out of Wirral Council’s control in 2009, that the Unified Waiting List Management Advisory Board (part 10 of the request) hadn’t met.

In relation to part 21 (Hilbre Island Nature Reserve Management Committee) Wirral Council stated “There are no minutes from 2013 the Hilbre Island Nature Reserve Management Committee as the present Committee was formed in March 2014.”

However Wirral Council still regarded the rest of the internal review request to be vexatious.

On the 29th July 2015 the Information Commissioner’s Office issued a further 13 page decision notice (FS50569254).

This decision notice found in relation to part 4 (School Appeals Panel) and part 11 (Discharge from Guardianship by Wirral Council under the Mental Health Act 1983 Panel) that Wirral Council does not hold information related to this part of the request.

This finding on the school appeals panels I find odd since the school appeals panel meets at Wallasey Town Hall. In response to a previous FOI request Wirral Council stated that it pays the taxi expenses for school appeals panel members and Wirral Council employees from the Legal & Member Services section of Wirral Council take the minutes of these meetings. Apparently Wirral Council states that there were School Appeal Panel meetings in 2012 but as they only keep the decision notices for 2 years that now it’s 2015 that Wirral Council don’t have them any more.

ICO also found that Wirral Council didn’t hold meetings of the Hilbre Island Nature Reserve Management Committee and believed Wirral Council when it stated “There are no minutes from 2013 the Hilbre Island Nature Reserve Management Committee as the present Committee was formed in March 2014.

This is disputed by both Cllr Chris Carubia and Cllr Pat Williams as you can see by their response to a tweet below:

However, ICO stated that Wirral Council breached section 10 (time for compliance with request) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 with regards to part 5 (Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education (SACRE)) of the request and part 10 (Unified Waiting List Management Advisory Board) because “it did not disclose information or provide a response in relation to these parts within 20 working days”.

ICO also stated in its decision notice that Wirral Council had incorrectly applied section 14(1) (vexatious or repeated requests) to parts 15 (Headteachers and Teachers JCC), 18 (Members’ Training Steering Group), 19 (Members’ Equipment Steering Group) and 26 (Safeguarding Reference Group) of the request, because “these elements of the request are not vexatious”.

ICO did decide that Wirral Council had correctly applied section 14(1) to part 8 (Adoption/Fostering Panels) of the request because it deemed it to be vexatious (but is clarified in the decision notice as being a “disproportionate burden”). Wirral Council supplied the minutes of one adoption panel meeting and one fostering panel meeting to the Information Commissioners Office which came to a total of 95 pages. Wirral Council estimated it would take 23.5 hours of staff time (just over 15 minutes a page) to make the necessary redactions.

However the minutes of the Headteachers and Teachers JCC meeting, Members’ Training Steering Group meeting, Members’ Equipment Steering Group meeting and Safeguarding Reference Group came to less than 15 double-sided pages (30 sides of A4).

The decision notice also states “The complainant will not receive a response to some parts of his request until more than two years after he submitted it.”

Either Wirral Council or myself could appeal this ICO decision notice to the First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) within the next 28 days.

So do you think that now Wirral Council can’t rely on section 12 (exemption where the cost of compliance exceeds appropriate limit) or section 14 (vexatious or repeated requests) in respect to the Headteachers and Teachers JCC meeting, Members’ Training Steering Group meeting, Members’ Equipment Steering Group meeting and Safeguarding Reference Group meeting part of this request that I’ll finally get the information?

Here are some quotes from the decision notice (committee in the first quote refers to Hilbre Island Nature Reserve Management Committee).

“The Council, however, confirmed to the Commissioner on 20 July 2015 that, having undertaken a thorough search, it does not hold any Committee minutes from 2013 or earlier.

ICO believed Wirral Council so I suppose these published minutes of the Hilbre Island Nature Reserve Management Committee published on Wirral Council’s website from the 13th April 2007, 23rd November 2006, 13th July 2005 and even as far back as 6th April 2001 are just figments of my imagination. Perhaps I’m not “on message” enough!

Here’s another quote:

“The Council’s information manager had calculated that it took 70 hours and £1,750 to provide its response to the complainant dated 4 November. It argued that the amount of time the information management team had to spend on locating, retrieving and reading information falling within the scope of the request had a detrimental impact on the team.”

On the 4th November 2014 Wirral Council provided 22 A4 pages of information. The rest it either said it didn’t hold, was already on its website or that an exemption applied. That’s £79.54 per a page (or over 3 hours per an A4 page) of released information! How can it have had a “detrimental impact on the team” when Wirral Council took the 35 days the decision notice allowed plus an extra 22 days!

and another

“The Council says this work would cause a disproportionate burden because the request does not appear to have an inherent purpose or value.”

So knowing what and how councillors make important decisions on the public’s behalf doesn’t have an “inherent purpose or value”?

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What was in the “strictly confidential” report on Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority that cost over £14000?

                                         

Last year Merseyside Waste and Recycling Authority paid Paver Smith (a PR agency which has since changed its name to Influential) £11,700 + VAT for 18 days work (at a rate of £650 + VAT) for an internal and external communications review. You can see the invoice for that work below.

Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority invoice Paver Smith

Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority invoice Paver Smith

The internal communication review involved ‘discovery’ sessions with MRWA staff, an online questionnaire and focus groups. Below is the internal communications bit of the report (with my comments under each page).

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 1

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 1

This is just the cover page for the report.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 2

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 2

This report is “strictly confidential”. Why do I know this? Why I know because this page tells me so in red letters.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 3

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 3

This is a contents page.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 4

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 4

A whole page on “introductory remarks” that contains a lot of phrases such as:

“employees and management must communicate in order for an organisation to function effectively”,
“there is real value in staff being clear on and understanding the forward mission and objectives of MWRA” and “Staff also carry an organisation’s brand out to the market, with clients, stakeholders and the public. Having them “on message” and carrying a unified and coordinated message can have great benefits”.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 5

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 5

This page deals with “Objectives and methodology” including this section on confidentiality:

  • It is crucial to the process on an internal communications review that all feedback is supplied in strictest confidence and handled with great care.
  • For the results to be helpful for an organisation feedback needs to be given openly and without concern.
  • Therefore all focus group interviews were undertaken in the strictest confidence under Chatham House rules with no attributing of specific statements to individuals.
  • The internal survey was structured also in a way to preserve anonymity.
Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 6

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 6

This next page goes into detail about the three focus groups (Executive Management Team, Senior Management Team and Authority officers).

One of the more interesting comments on this page is “A common theme raised by all was the concern that MRWA had a “silo” culture where individual teams largely operated independently from each other and as a result there was little cross fertilisation or understanding what each team was working on/ looking to achieve.”

A comment like that probably makes you think that Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority is a large organisation with lots of staff, however the staff structure on their website shows they have only about three dozen staff.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 7

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 7

This page has the rather telling comment at the top (EMT stands for Executive Management Team) “There was a staff perception that the EMT didn’t wish to engage in two way communication and discussion.” followed by “All expressed a concern that the intranet was used passively to disseminate information that staff were then assumed to seek out, but that active use of the intranet was however very low.”

Then it moves on to themes from the Executive Management Team focus group. Here are some quotes from that focus group:

“Concern was express that some of the staff had unrealistic expectations as to what they should be communicated to about.”

and

“The intranet was raised as a tool that wasn’t effective and not proactively used to access information.”

The senior management focus group also commented on the intranet and the silo culture.

“It was felt by some that too much reliance was placed on people proactively seeking out information on the intranet and that generally people didn’t do this. “

“A major concern for this group was what was described as a “silo” culture in MRWA with individual teams and functions working in isolation from each other and not enough interaction nor understanding of each other’s objectives, activity, challenges and successes. “

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 8

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 8

The staff focus group found internal communications was “poor”, apart from HR related matters. This focus group also felt “that generally the quality of management communication was poor and that there was a lack of interest (from the organisation) in seeking and listening to staff’s views and ideas.”.

Also commented on by the staff focus group was that this had led to a “‘what’s the point’ culture with some staff and a sense of negativity and scepticism”. The staff group expressed a “strong desire that the outcomes from the internal communications review should be shared”.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 9

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 9

This page deals with the results of the questionnaire, there’s a pretty even split between people who think internal communications are poor and those that think it is satisfactory.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 10

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 10

This is another page going into the results of the survey and has the line “Good internal communications are seen generally by staff as of crucial importance to their sense of satisfaction and general wellbeing an an employee.”

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 11

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 11

This page details the results to the question “How important do you think internal communication is?”.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 12

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 12

This page is about the frequency of internal communications and information that people should receive monthly.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 13

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 13

This page is about the frequency of internal communications and information that people should receive quarterly or bi-annually.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 14

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 14

This page is about the quality of internal communication.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 15

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 15

This page is about satisfaction with the quality of internal communication and how it happens.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 17

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 16

This page deals with improving internal communications.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 18

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 17

This page deals with verbatim comments on how to improve internal communications.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 19

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 18

This page states expands on the heading “treat all equal” which is clarified as meaning “Reduce the secret meetings and promote total inclusion”.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 20

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 19

This page starts the recommendations, the first four are for the Executive Management Team (abbreviated to EMT).

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 21

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 20

This page has two more general recommendations on content of internal communications.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 22

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 21

This page has recommendations on the channel used for communication.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 23

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 22

This page suggests that positive external PR news should be circulated internally to staff.

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 24

Paver Smith report on internal communications to Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority page 23

Finally, in the concluding remarks and next steps it recommends that the reports findings and recommendations are presented to the Executive Management Team and to the wider management and staff cohort.

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U-turn on Fort Perch Rock car parking charges and 2 other updates

                                          

Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 1 of 3

Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 1 of 3

There have been developments recently with a number of stories I’ve written about on this blog so I thought I would give an update for each story.

New Brighton Fort Perch Rock car parking charges

A week ago I wrote a story headlined Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

Personally I thought nothing further would happen on this story until the September meeting of Wirral Council’s Highways and Traffic Representation Panel. However, since writing that story Wirral Council have issued a press release that’s titled either “Resort parking plans quashed” (when it’s linked to from their homepage) or “Wirral Council leader says no to plans to charge for parking in New Brighton” from the press release.

There is a very interesting quote in the press release from Councillor Phil Davies that states “Cllr Pat Hackett, our Cabinet Member for the Economy, has been meeting with traders and business leaders in New Brighton to discuss the proposals, and they made a powerful case for not proceeding. When we looked at the plan and the possible impact on parking and tourism across the whole of the resort, I made the decision to stop the proposal”.

On the 22nd December 2014, I wrote on this blog When Wirral Council introduces car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock, will 3 hours free parking end for a further 423 New Brighton spaces? (later updating it this year by including the public notice). I published the three pages of Wirral Council’s lease for the Marine Point development at New Brighton that detailed if Wirral Council introduced car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park, charges could be introduced at the supermarket car park and the “health and fitness” car park (originally Bubbles was going to be a gym but they couldn’t find a company that wanted to run it as a gym). This was plenty of time before the 2015/16 budget for Wirral Council was agreed on the 24th February 2015 for councillors to change their mind.

An article by Liam Murphy in the Liverpool Echo states “But Promenade Estates, who manage part of the successfully regenerated resort, say if the charges are imposed they would have little choice but to follow suit. This would mean parking charges on the car parks serving Morrisons, The Light Cinema, Bubbles play centre and other businesses.”

So it wasn’t just a “possible impact” but a “probable impact”. On the 9th December 2014, Councillor Phil Davies proposed and voted for this resolution at a Cabinet meeting, that was seconded and agreed by all councillors including Cllr Pat Hackett:

“We also feel that it is appropriate to introduce a modest charge for parking at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton up to 6 p.m.”

“67.We also feel it is appropriate that a modest charge for parking up to 6 pm. at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton should be introduced.”

So Councillor Phil Davies U-turned on his own policy! However it begs the following question, if the reason for stopping the proposal is the impact on parking across the resort (as stated in the quote from Cllr Phil Davies), then why wasn’t he told about the impact on parking elsewhere in Marine Point by his own officers before Cabinet made the decision? As you can see below from the first page of the lease that has the clauses about parking, Wirral Council is the landlord for the Marine Point development.

New Brighton Marine Point lease Wirral Council Neptune Wirral Ltd cover page

New Brighton Marine Point lease Wirral Council Neptune Wirral Ltd cover page

I’ll also draw readers attention to a leaflet from April 2015 from Tony Pritchard (the Conservative candidate for New Brighton ward and former councillor opposing parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park.

The mysteriously missing Employment Tribunal judgement

I wrote previously about my failed attempts to get a copy of an Employment Tribunal judgement in a case involving Wirral Council. I have since been told by a clerk to the Employment Tribunal that the case hasn’t concluded and that there will be a final hearing listed for November 2015. After the final hearing I can request a copy of the judgement.

Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority and DHA Communications

An earlier story headlined Why did Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority pay a PR agency £650 + VAT a day? which involved Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority paying a £1,625 monthly retainer has led to a statement from Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority which I will quote here:

“I confirm that the Authority no longer retains DHA Communications and the use of their services ceased as of March 31st 2015. The Authority recognises that some parts of its relationship with DHA Communications was not fully formalised in some time periods. The Authority has reviewed its practices in relation to this type of contract and has now put in additional measures and monitoring in place to ensure that an accurate audit trail is retained.”

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Why was I “gagged” from writing about a £1.2 billion contract?

                                                               

Photo from Youtube video about £1.2 billion contract

Photo from Youtube video about £1.2 billion contract

Below is a transcript of the above Youtube video (which at the time of writing is uploading but should be available by about 6.20pm on the 28/7/2015).

Hello viewers, I’m John Brace. Normally I’m behind the camera not in front of it, but today I wanted to talk about a £1.2 billion contract that councillors have signed between Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority now called Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority and SITA Sembcorp UK Limited.

A few weeks ago as part of the public’s rights under the audit when the public can inspect various invoices and contracts for three weeks each year I requested this particular contract, although as there weren’t any payments made on this contract under the last financial year, they first of all classed it as a freedom of information request, then they got back to me and said now it’s an Environmental Information Regulations request.

They did give me a copy of the contract but all the pricing information was blacked out. However the strange thing now after making Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations requests for years and years is I came across something new in that when they sent me an email back saying this is the result of the public interest test as to why we’ve redacted certain bits, they referred to the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 and basically said at the bottom that if I wanted to republish it or reuse it, I’d have to ask them for a licence!

Anyway I looked up the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 and yes they do apply to information that’s been given out for freedom of information requests or Environmental Information Regulations requests.

Anyway I found out that the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 were in fact repealed before the date of their letter.

They were repealed on the 18th July. So they don’t apply any more, but the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 do apply and they contain some changes which is why I’m making this video.

You see in, let’s see if I can get it up in Regulation I think it’s 5, yep Regulation 5 of the of the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 state these regulations do not apply to documents held by public service broadcasters and their subsidiaries, and other bodies and their subsidiaries for the purposes of the provision of programme services.

Now if you look up what these definitions actually mean in the Communications Act 2003, right, body means any body or association of persons, whether corporate or unincorporate, including a firm; so that could just mean me and Leonora, now the definition of programme services is a bit more complicated but the definition of programme services means a television programme service, the public teletext service, an additional television service, a digital additional television service, a radio programme service or a sound service provided by the BBC and then it goes on to define “television programme” means any programme (with or without sounds) which is produced wholly or partly to be seen on television and consists of moving or still images or of legible text or of a combination of those things.

Now I’ve checked whether videos on this Youtube channel are being watched on TVs and I’ll just have a quick look on my laptop and see. Yes, over the last year there have been 189 views on smart TVs and set top boxes for TV. So therefore strangely enough I come under the definition of, this comes under the definition of television programme and therefore the regulations do not apply to this particular document so I don’t have to ask their permission to publish it because it’s to do with this programme service and that’s why I’m recording this.

However on a final note I’d like to point out that the, shall we say the principle that every time somebody in the media makes a freedom of information request or an environmental information regulations request, before they use that information they’ve got to ask for permission from the public body to reuse it and state what purpose it’s for is well for anybody in the media who makes a freedom of information request and then writes stories on them is not the way it’s done.

Err, I don’t know if anybody else has heard of these regulations or whether they’re going to crop up in future FOI requests even though I think Wirral Council would quite like to send a boilerplate text at the end of each reply they send to me saying that I can’t use them unless I get their permission under the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 in which case I’ll just make another video like this and then it doesn’t apply.

Anyway going back to the £1.2 billion contract between Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority or now Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority and SITA Sembcorp UK Limited. This is an 864 page contract that over the lifetime of the contract they will pay out £1.2 billion for and relates to for years and years and years basically putting Merseyside’s rubbish on a train, sending it up to somewhere in the North-East of England, burning it and generating electricity from the rubbish.

I’m not sure what happens to the rubbish after they’ve burnt it but perhaps I need to read the contract better but I will be publishing the contract along with this video on my website so you can have a look for yourself. On the subject of the information that is blacked out, I’ll be looking into whether I’ll make a whatever the, I think it’s a reconsideration under the Environmental Information Regulations request for that information to be revealed but I’ll have to look into the detail and unfortunately basically the way the contract is worded it’s very unlikely that I’ll get access to the financial information in it but I’ll publish the rest of it on my blog, so you can have a read to see what your money will be spent on from 2017.

The only other thing, well two other things to say about this contract are firstly, this contract was signed back in 2013 and at that time the government were making various financial incentives to do this kind of thing so that the rubbish didn’t go to landfill but this was one of three projects where the government decided that there were already enough energy from waste contracts to supply our needs for years and years in the future and they withdrew the £90 million PFI credits for this particular contract.

Now the two other places that were affected by this decision decided to take the government to judicial review, I don’t know what happened as a result of that and finally the only other thing to point out about this contract is that there were, in the end two bidders for this contract one of whom was obviously the successful contractor SITA Sembcorp UK Limited.

Now the unsuccessful bidder sued Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority because they alleged things had happened during the tendering process that shouldn’t have and in fact they even got the court to basically set aside the contract or set aside basically implementing the contract until the court case was settled.

Now the court case was eventually settled out of court, the second placed contractor basically asked for Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority to pay all the profit they would have got if they’d been awarded the contract and of course Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority doesn’t have that kind of money because it would be over £100 million. I can’t remember what the estimate was, I think it was something between £100 million and £200 million. So anyway that’s the last thing I wanted to say about this and I hope you enjoyed this video and the contract is on my blog.

OK? Bye.


If someone could explain the meaning of Regulation 5(2) of The Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015:

“(2) These Regulations do not apply to a document unless it—

(a) has been identified by the public sector body as being available for re-use;
(b) has been provided to the applicant; or
(c) is accessible by means other than by making a request for it within the meaning of the 1998 Act, the 2000 Act (or where appropriate the 2002 Act) or the 2004 Regulations (or where appropriate the 2004 Scottish Regulations).”

and whether this means:

(a) the regulations don’t apply to FOI requests, EIR requests or data protection act requests or
(b) the regulations apply to everything but FOI requests, EIR requests or data protection act requests

and leave a comment it would be appreciated.

UPDATED 17:45 28/7/15 Merseyside Waste and Recycling Authority have today stated "the Authority is aware of its obligations in relation to transparency, and the publication of public sector information. We are more than happy that members of the public can access this material, and are free to question, query and publish aspects of the Authority’s work."

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Why did Merseytravel spend £2,775 on a “Parliamentary Reception”?

                                                 

Below is an invoice from the House of Commons to Merseytravel for £2,775.

Merseytravel invoice House of Commons £2775 7th May 2014

Merseytravel invoice House of Commons £2775 7th May 2014

Sadly the invoice doesn’t state a lot other than Ms Louise Ellman MP was the sponsoring MP. To find out what the room booking was for is better explained in an invoice from Bircham Dyson Bell (see below).

Merseytravel invoice Bircham Dyson Bell £2298.95 30th June 2014 Page 1 of 2

Merseytravel invoice Bircham Dyson Bell £2298.95 30th June 2014 Page 1 of 2

Merseytravel invoice Bircham Dyson Bell £2298.95 30th June 2014 Page 2 of 2

Merseytravel invoice Bircham Dyson Bell £2298.95 30th June 2014 Page 2 of 2

As you can see from the pages of the invoice above Bircham Dyson Bell charged Merseytravel £425.50 + VAT to attend a parliamentary reception on the 25th June 2014 plus £327.99 + VAT in travel expenses.

I’ll leave it to readers to comment on whether they think Merseytravel being charging £55.50 + VAT by Bircham Dyson Bell to write an email is reasonable in these times of public sector cutbacks.

Next is a “strictly private and confidential” matter. In fact so strictly private and confidential the invoice for £1,867.80 from Weightmans below only specifies that it is for “Matter number 44 Re professional services”.

Merseytravel invoice Weightmans £1867.80 27th June 2014 Page 1 of 2

Merseytravel invoice Weightmans £1867.80 27th June 2014 Page 1 of 2

But as anyone me, I like demystifying such matters, so let me let Weightmans explain what this invoice is really about.

Merseytravel invoice Weightmans £1867.80 27th June 2014 Page 2 of 2

Merseytravel invoice Weightmans £1867.80 27th June 2014 Page 2 of 2

In case you can’t read the above I’ll quote the pertinent bit here.

Strictly private and confidential
Employment advice

Please find enclosed a bill of costs for work carried out by myself and Simon Goacher in relation to issues surrounding the Chief Executive and Director contracts.

I have not put any detail of the work on the bill or identified what it is for reasons of confidentiality. However, there is a breakdown of the work done so far on this matter attached for your attention.

I assume that matters are currently progressing satisfactorily but if you do require any further advice when the drafting is completed then please do not hesitate to contact either myself or Simon Goacher.

Thank you for your kind instructions in this matter, it is always good to work with you.

Kind regards,

Yours sincerely

Bernadette Worthington
Partner
For and on behalf of Weightmans LLP”

Going back to the original theme of political engagement is an invoice below from Kenyon Fraser for £29,160. This is for work on Merseytravel’s campaign to have a high-speed rail connection to Liverpool.

Merseytravel invoice Kenyon Fraser £29160 28th July 2014

Merseytravel invoice Kenyon Fraser £29160 28th July 2014

Continuing on lobbying but this time at party political conferences is an invoice for £11,429.96 for “PTEG Political engagement at Party Conferences and events each PTE see attached”.

Merseytravel invoice Nexus £11429.96 12th March 2015 Political engagement at party conferences

Merseytravel invoice Nexus £11429.96 12th March 2015 Political engagement at party conferences

Finally, here is an invoice for £811.20 from Key Travel for train tickets for travel from Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston. So what’s so unusual about that? Well the passengers are just listed as UNISON and it’s Merseytravel that have paid the invoice (I hope the costs were charged back to UNISON)!

Merseytravel invoice Key Travel £811.20 train fares London to Liverpool

Merseytravel invoice Key Travel £811.20 train fares London to Liverpool

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