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Posted by: John Brace | 21st September 2016

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority end 15 month information request over Greasby and Saughall Massie fire stations by supplying the information, but ask First-tier Tribunal for costs award in their favour against Mr Brace

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority end 15 month information request over Greasby and Saughall Massie fire stations by supplying the information, but ask First-tier Tribunal for costs award in their favour against Mr Brace

                                         

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool

This is a report of a hearing held today of the First-tier Tribunal held in Tribunal Room 3, 3rd Floor (Tribunals Service), Liverpool Civil and Family Court, 35 Vernon Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L2 2BX

At the hearing I was the Appellant and Janet Henshaw represented Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. ICO did not attend. The case number was EA/2016/0054.

The decision at the hearing was to end the matter by consent order.

The Tribunal consisted of First-tier Tribunal Judge Mr. David Farrer QC, First-tier Tribunal Member Mr. Michael Hake and First-tier Tribunal Member Dr. Malcolm Clarke.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority explained that they had not provided the information covered by decision notice FER0592270, because they had changed it during the course of the EIR request to remove both “Not for publication” and the reason or reasons why under the Local Government Act 1972 it had initially been classed by them as exempt information (although this is a position they reversed during the course of the appeal).

Despite the Appellant informing them by letter in response to what they had sent him on Monday 19th September 2016 (which are the reports below), are not the version he asked for, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority saw it unreasonable to have a hearing today on the withheld information.

During the course of the hearing MFRA supplied extra information to the Appellant Mr. Brace both in written form and verbally.

MFRA asked the Tribunal to make a costs award against Mr Brace, the Appellant.

The Appellant was asked to explain his point of view. He explained that the law stated information that should’ve been in what was supplied, therefore he knew it was the wrong version and he had informed MFRA, the Tribunal and ICO of this by letter.

He had not yet received a response to this letter from MFRA.

MFRA argued that the hearing was pointless, because from their perspective even if the information supplied was two A4 pages shorter than the case management note had required them to supply, in their view, the extra pages contained no information relating to the request in it and referred them to Mr Brace’s letter describing the extra pages.

MFRA were asked during the course of the hearing to supply the version in existence at the time of request to the Appellant Mr Brace.

Janet Henshaw of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority explained that she hadn’t brought it with her to the hearing.

Due to the explanation provided by MFRA as to the withheld pages of information, the Appellant agreed to end the matter by consent order.

Janet Henshaw of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority argued that the Appellant was being unreasonable in bringing the proceedings to a hearing.

The Appellant was given a chance to make representations.

The Tribunal did not agree to make an award of costs at the hearing, but directed Janet Henshaw of MFRA to make a formal application for costs and to serve it on the Appellant and Tribunal by a specified date.

The the Appellant would have a chance to make representations and as he is an individual, supply the Tribunal (and MFRA) with details of financial means (which would have to be considered) when the Tribunal makes a decision.

The First-Tier Tribunal Judge explained that the Tribunal’s rules on costs were different to that of the court.

One of those present also seemed upset at the trees that had been cut down to produce the bundle and the First-Tier Tribunal Judge referred to the cost to the public purse.

Any decision by the Tribunal on costs can be appealed to the County Court.

The information in the two reports relates to MFRA plans for a fire station at Greasby, then Saughall Massie.

The supplied information for Greasby is an Exempt report capital costs Greasby fire station (although this is missing the blank page) and Appendix F Capital Costs Saughall Massie.

Both reports (which were not made public during the two twelve week consultations) show indicative values for selling Upton Fire Station (£350,000) and selling West Kirby fire station (£200,000).

The land value assigned for the abandoned Greasby plans is £300,000 and the notional value assigned for the land at Saughall Massie is £300,000.

The Appellant awaits MFRA’s costs application with interest as at least one of the questions directed towards Chief Fire Officer Dan Stephens (pictured below) during one of the two consultation was why this information wasn’t in the public domain.

Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer) answers questions at a public consultation meeting in Saughall Massie to discuss proposals for a new fire station (20th April 2015)

Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer) answers questions at a public consultation meeting in Saughall Massie to discuss proposals for a new fire station (20th April 2015)

The First-tier Tribunal Judge stated during the hearing that the reasons given in ICO’s decision notice no longer applied for withholding the information.

MFRA (in line with councillors stating that people should be charged for FOI or EIR requests) despite agreeing to end this by consent order feel that is unfair to pay MFRA’s costs in providing the information, even though the First-Tier Tribunal Judge told them that the reasons for withholding the information in the decision notice didn’t apply.

Janet Henshaw was the person that also refused the information at the internal review stage as she is a senior manager employed by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.

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Responses

  1. They say the law in this land is fair! Lol!
    Wasn’t the value of the land at Upton and Greasby a lot higher than this when the thought of selling them off started!

    • I’ve no idea as I don’t do land valuations.

      These were the “indicative values” presented to councillors at the public meetings on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority when they made decisions about Greasby pre and post consultation in 2014 and 2015 and then on Saughall Massie pre and post consultation in 2015.

      Before any sale (or purchase) of land (and or buildings), a commercial valuation would have to be carried out to prove value for money to the taxpayer.

      I’m not sure what the commercial values would be today in 2016, other than to say the land at Saughall Massie is worthless to both Wirral Council and MFRA without planning permission.

      However Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority or indeed Wirral Council can transfer land (and or buildings) worth £2 million or less at less than the commercial value in certain circumstances.

      For example the land by Birkenhead Fire Station that Wirral Council wanted for the Youth Zone was independently valued at between £250,000 to £325,000.

      However Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority agreed a lease to Wirral Council at a peppercorn rent (basically nothing) and as the minutes show, there was a Wirral Council councillor on the MFRA Committee that decided on this, without declaring an interest.

    • My earlier article mentioned an estimated £0.5 million from the sale of West Kirby and Upton fire stations.

      The above figures show I wasn’t far off as councillors were told indicative values of £550,000.

      The valuations for insurance purposes were a combined total of £2.185 million, but insurance valuations (I presume like most based on the rebuild cost if the building was destroyed) are usually higher anyway.

  2. G’day John

    I think Bobby47 sums up this bully very well.

    Ooroo

    James

    Who has the bigger cojones?

    • And so, as there’s no ambiguity and to answer my dear friend James, I’ll say this which I believe properly explains my position in regard to this matter.
      If ever I’m laid in bed and suddenly for no explainable reason spontaneous combustion occurs engulfing me in flames and subsequently rendering me incapable of saving myself without the aid of the Fire Brigade, and it’s Dan who appears at my ninth floor window, banging on it, screaming, ‘pull your pants up, open the window and I’ll save you’, I’m going to tell him, ‘clear off. I’ll take me chances with the flames and smoke rather than have you saving me thank you very much’.
      So there you have it! Rather than me becoming beholding for the rest of my days and having to thank Dan for saving me bloody life, I’d rather toast, burn and incinerate before agreeing to the participation in saving my life.
      That’s what you call principles and I’ve got them. I know what I’ll have, what I won’t have and what I’ll be made to have if ever I’m held down and forcible made to have it.

      • Thanks for your comment bobby47, as usual it is entertaining.

        I think you’re being a little harsh on Dan Stephens. There are two parts of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, there is the firefighting side (~700 firefighters) which includes Dan Stephens as Chief Fire Officer and the administrative side (~300 staff).

        The decision about costs was made by the administrative side, not the side he’s in.

  3. G’day John

    I see Fartin Lobsterpot is dishing out all the good news about Jack and the Beanstalk’s Hoylake soccer/Golf Resort on a bad news week.

    Who, my man, is on the plane to China to visit Stella?

    I presume “Phil the Very Very even more Deluded Dill”, AdderleyDadderleyDooLally, “The Chamber Potty” and “The only one from the Village that is Kev and Stella’s Stinking Stagnant Wirral Waters”.

    “Ugh Boots” could be paying her own way too to spend some quality time with him.

    Ooroo

    James

    Keep up the much needed work John, wirral needs you more and more.

    Luv your work to Bobby.

  4. G’day John

    Fudge It and Risk It Mis-Management Committee tonight.

    Rumour is Grant (Chocolate Tea Pot) Thornton that have a materialistic level that is out of this cosmos are going to go through a pantomime of not signing off the clowncil’s accounts.

    That is just before they sign them………just for the dosh.

    Can’t make it John I do hope you can get it down on filum with you camera with swivelling tripod and put down for posterity the thicker than the chair “The Pretend Friend” saying to Grantie "Just sign it boyo you know you will".

    Like the ***** **** used to say to "Highbrow" over the Wirral "Funny" Bizz £2,000,000.00 knock off "give up boyo you can’t win".

    Ooroo

    James

    I will take "Highbrow" to Leicester Square for your premiere "Tarrantino".

    • Yes I plan to film the Audit and Risk Management Committee of Wirral Council tonight.

      As the accounts have to be finalised by Friday 30th September (to meet the legal deadline), I’m sure that gives plenty of time for the necessary signatures on letters etc.

  5. G’day John

    Their once rubbish propaganda sheet

    “We already know the power of golf to attract investment and international visitors to Wirral from our experiences hosting what are widely considered to have been two of the most successful British Opens in recent years.”

    Which very very deluded person said this John and believed it?

    How many is “recent years” John?

    I will give you a couple of clues John it wasn’t Santa or The Tooth Fairy.

    Ooroo

    James

    We all live our days and nights for golf and soccer/golf don’t we John especially down in Hoylake where they all support Caldy Rugby and Theresa Maytheforcebewithyou.


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