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Posted by: John Brace | 11th May 2015

Wirral Council U-turn on refusal of request for information after complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office

Wirral Council U-turn on refusal of request for information after complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office

                                               

Last year, during the 2013/14 audit I requested various information on various payments Wirral Council has made to legal firms. One of these was an invoice for £700 for conveyancing done by DLA Piper UK LLP (a copy of which is below).

Wirral Council invoice DLA Piper UK LLP conveyance £700 7th August 2013

Wirral Council invoice DLA Piper UK LLP conveyance £700 7th August 2013

As you can see above it’s for a BACS payment (although the payments over £500 list this as a CHAPS payment) for £700, split into £200 for a contribution towards sewers (although the rest of what the £200 is for can’t be made out due to bad handwriting) and £500 to do with the purchase of the freehold title.

If you look at the image above you’ll find the address of the property is blacked out. Section 15 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 allow Wirral Council to redact information if it relates to a member of their staff (or payments or other benefits made to their staff connected with their employment) or to withhold personal information if the external auditor agrees to it.

However their auditor has confirmed that there were no such requests. Wirral Council also rely on the decision in Veolia ES Nottinghamshire Ltd v Nottinghamshire County Council & Ors [2010] EWCA Civ 1214 in blacking out information that falls into the meaning of “commercial confidentiality”.

So going back to the PR1 form above I wanted to know what the address that this £700 for conveyancing spent by Wirral Council was, so back on the 26th January 2015 I asked using the Freedom of Information Act for the address.

By the 24th February 2015, having received no reply to my request of the 26th January 2015 within the 20 days Wirral Council have to respond to FOI requests, I requested an internal review because of the lack of response.

On the 23rd March 2015, a Rosemary Lyon who is a solicitor working at Wirral Council replied to my request for an internal review. She regarded the request as one that fell within the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, so considered it as a representation under regulation 11.

She then went on to refuse the request using an exception in Regulation 12(5)(e) which states:

“the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information where such confidentiality is provided by law to protect a legitimate economic interest;”

The reasons she gave for refusing the request were:                                    

“in that a public authority may refuse to disclose information to the extent that its disclosure would adversely affect the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information where such confidentiality is provided by law to protect a legitimate economic interest. I have had regard to the guidance issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office, “Confidentiality of commercial or industrial information (regulation 12 (5) (e) Version 1.2. I consider that the following applies to the requested information in the context of the other information included in the payment requisition fund:-

  • The information is commercial or industrial in nature
  • Confidentiality is provided by law
  • The confidentiality is protecting a legitimate economic interest
  • The confidentiality would be adversely affected by disclosure.

I consider that the information relates to the commercial activity of a third party. I also consider that confidentiality is provided by law in that it is imposed on the Council as a public authority by the common law of confidence and contractual obligation. I consider that the confidentiality is protecting a legitimate economic interest. The First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) confirmed in Elmbridge Borough Council v. Information Commissioner and Gladedale Group Ltd (EA/2010/0106, 4 January 2011) that to satisfy this element of the test, disclosure of the confidential information would have to adversely affect a legitimate economic interest of the person the confidentiality is designed to protect. I consider that disclosure of the requested information would adversely affect the legitimate economic interest of the third party and also that of the Council.

This exception is subject to the public interest test.

Public interest factors in favour of disclosure

  • Promotion of transparency and accountability of public authorities

Public interest factors in maintaining the exception

  • Disclosure would adversely affect the legitimate economic interest of a third party and interfere with commercial bargaining in the context of existing or future negotiations
  • Disclosure of the requested information would also affect the bargaining position of the Council with third parties.

I consider that in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information. I am therefore refusing your request for information on the basis that the exception contained in Regulation 12 (5) (e) of the EIR applies.”

On the 25th March 2015 I appealed Wirral Council’s refusal to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Today Wirral Council reversed their position and stated:

“Following your complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Council has decided to reverse its position, having previously relied on the exception contained in Regulation 12 (5) (e) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. I do not consider that releasing the information would now adversely affect the legitimate economic interest of a third party. The address of the property, which you have requested is 13 Thorneycroft Street, Birkenhead. I have copied this response to the Information Commissioner’s Office.”

Now I know the address is 13 Thorneycroft Street, Birkenhead, I know what this payment for conveyancing is for. The properties in this road as far as I remember had been demolished by the date that this payment to DLA Piper UK LLP for conveyancing happened in August 2013.

In August 2013, Keepmoat were granted planning permission for 125 new houses here and have since built them and sold them on. In fact 13 Thorneycroft Street, Birkenhead doesn’t exist any more, it’s either part of the public open space at the back of the Laird Street Baptist Church or an off-street car parking space for one of the new properties.

So what was the “legitimate interest of a third party” that Wirral Council claimed it was protecting by not supplying the address? How on earth does giving this address interfere with Wirral Council’s “commercial bargaining in the context of existing or future negotiations”?

Unlike the Freedom of Information legislation, regulation 12(2) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 state:

A public authority shall apply a presumption in favour of disclosure.
Wirral Council invoice DLA Piper UK LLP conveyance 7th August 2013 address added

Wirral Council invoice DLA Piper UK LLP conveyance 7th August 2013 address added

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Responses

  1. Good Morning Mr Brace, Could I ask if it is possible for you in an “Open and Transparent Manner” to give me the Date, Time, Venue and reference number of the Next Hearing of any Tribunal or Court that Mr C, Mr H, Mr M, or Mr G intend to attend at please? I would like to attend Thankyou

    • No idea at this stage, maybe someone else would like to comment?

  2. Mr Harper there is possibly a First tier Information tribunal, already deferred three times,to take place in July 2015 unless o course the Council chooses to name publicly the recipient of the £48,000 cheque signed by Mr Burgess .
    I suppose you remember this one of so many “Curious Incidents …”

    There would have been a case in the next three months but the party that is not WBC is too busy with an intensive and complex work problem for next three months. In autumn this case will proclaim itself and in the meantime you can anticipate the ERDF report onwhat the London civil servants now refer to as “the abuses of ISUS”

  3. The above are the “imposthumes of much grief and wealth that inward break but show no cause without”
    Underneath all these “Curious Incidents…” there are disturbing rumours from WBC staff about the conduct within the Council. The obdurate refusal to release any information bespeaks a canker just below the surface of events and conduct that people know have happened but which would be difficult in a court of law to definitively prove.

    Actually does not that bring to mind how the threat of suing for libel, and slander protected the likes of famous celebrities from the sixties until the recent police operations.

    Both Griffo and myself have been given so far empty threats of libel suits so soon as we grazed some important personage. The fact that nothing came of it speaks volumes about how close to the mark the relevant assertions were.

  4. Mr Brace and Wirralbizz, I am obliged for that Information and will continue to follow the Blog with interest. I would be grateful if you could keep me updated, there is/are obviously Reasons for this particular case to be deferred so many times, which you have answered so eloquently Thankyou.

  5. G’day Reprahnehpets

    I will be less eloquent.

    I would be grateful if you could keep me updated, there is/are obviously Reasons for this particular case to be deferred so many times, which you have answered so eloquently

    Because they are evil evil barstards that are not just not fit for purpose they are the scum of the earth… and use your beloved law to defend themselves.

    In no particular order;

    “The Shyster”

    “The Dunny Chain Wearer”

    “The Football Shirt”

    “The Pretend Friend”

    “Phil the Dill”

    “Phil the Dill’s Ugly Ugly twin Brother with the comb over from Hell”

    “Crabapple”

    and the latest scum arrival

    “Doughnut”

    Sadly for them they can’t change history.

    Like Wirralbizz says

    “Actually does not that bring to mind how the threat of suing for libel, and slander protected the likes of famous celebrities from the sixties until the recent police operations.”

    “Highbrow” has the memory of an elephant and the data base that shows it all.

    Got it.

    Ooroo

    James

    Where is Eric Pickles and his Administration?

  6. Good Afternoon Mr Griffiths, I expected you to comment, whenever my name is mentioned. I would expect them to use whatever means there is/are in order to protect themselves, as you state and I still think your a Nice, Nice, very Nice Man!!!!!

    • Reps me old China plate (See Morton Distortions)

      They shouldn’t have to defend themselves they should be HONEST honest!

      They are lying, cheating barstards that should be put on the dole like what I’ve been for almost four years.

      I feel sorry for these sick barstards the level they have to stoop too.

      Ooroo

      James

      They are scum.

      • Mr Griffiths, I have always agreed with you in most of what you have written, apart from the some of the terminology. To say SORRY, implies weakness and your certainly not that or most of the persons who write on this Blog.

        • Reps

          The only reason I speak bad of these egotistical buffoons is because they conspire to say nought.

          The only thing they hear is personal insults.

          ooroo

          James

  7. G’day John

    So Pickles is gone so I presume that is why DCLG hasn’t answered “Highbrows” FOI’S.

    The public servants think people are stupid and will go away but “Highbrow” simply won’t.

    Like I said history won’t change because Pickles like “The Dunny Chain Wearer” is past his use by date.

    Ooroo

    James

    • Mr Griffiths, I believe the gentleman taking over from Mr Pickles is
      ” The Rt Hon Greg Clark ” MP for Tunbridge Wells. He has his own Website paid for out of his own pocket, interesting read

      • So now the Minister at DCLG can literally be “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells”? 😉

  8. Mr Griffiths, I thought you knew there had been an update in the Cabinet, even Mr Johnson has a role, political only though!!!

  9. G’day John

    Here we go again dragging the Wirral filth up to another member of parliament.

    The are such stubborn barstards but not as stubborn as “Highbrow” and me.

    The only “serious” meeting we have had that hasn’t been pre-planned for the public was with “The Shyster” and “The Pretend Friend” and that was a farce were “The Shyster” said he hadn’t read the report. Yeppp!!!!!

    So what was he meeting us for…..just to tell us the “chronology speaks for itself”.

    This could all go away with an hours meeting with someone who wants to be open, honest, transparent and offer justice.

    Almost four years and we will not stop.

    Ooroo

    James
    .

  10. Mr Brace, Mr Griffiths and Wirralbizz, Good Morning to you all, Let me first say you Mr Brace are a Very Clever Man the way you ” Thunder ” through your blog, secondly let me say to Mr Griffiths, the reason for your Meetings would be to ascertain what actual evidence you and your Friend and Colleague have, the public meetings would be to zero out that evidence (Negative it) or Cover it up (Your Move Shyster and Pretend Friend) In respect of Wirralbizz. You can work until you are Blue in the Face to ascertain who did what when and where and get a Definitive answer!!!!!! Your move Shyster and Pretend Friend!!!!!!!


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