Bins, Biffa, page 59, Wirral Council, “Confidential Information” and what you’re not supposed to know (yet)
I was reading through the Biffa contract (who get paid ~£12 million a year for collecting bins and other things) and this interesting snippet about Freedom of Information and Data Protection caught my eye on page 59. I haven’t made any FOI requests for the yearly CO2 emissions of bin lorries but this is how such a request would be dealt with if someone were to do so. This is probably only of interest to those who work in this area such as the media, FOI practitioners and of limited interest to the public, so apologies if I’m getting boring! Contractor in the contract refers to Biffa Waste Services Limited. At 220.127.116.11 I couldn’t help but laugh at the bit about time for compliance for FOI requests considering Wirral Council’s track record and my recent decision notice from ICO on that matter.
The “absolute discretion” bit in 4.61.3 is very interesting as quite often local councils refuse to release information about companies and contracts on commercial sensitivity grounds saying well we’d like to give you this information but company X won’t let us.
Last Thursday (11th September 2014) Wirral Council’s Cabinet agreed to ask Kevin Adderley to enter into negotiations with Biffa over extending this ~£12 million/year contract from 2020 to 2027 without putting it out to tender. However an extra clause was added over value for money. Mr. Adderley was asked to report back to a future Cabinet meeting on the outcome of negotiations.
However the contract does state that if Wirral Council wish to extend the contract from 2020 to 2027 they don’t have to tell Biffa this until on or before 21st August 2019. So why the big rush other than to pander to Biffa’s commercial interests and damage Wirral Council’s?
Well from what was said at the Cabinet meeting Biffa Waste Services Limited have offered Wirral Council “incentives” on the current contract (which runs to 2020) if Wirral Council agree to a seven-year contract extension and don’t put it out to competitive tender when it expires in 2020.
Extending the contract by seven years is effectively making a decision that will tie the hands of future administrations (of whatever party or parties) at Wirral Council. However I’m sure (if officers are doing their job properly) that what I’ve just written is the kind of details that were in the exempt appendices for last Thursday’s Cabinet meeting. The Labour politicians on Wirral Council’s Cabinet decided that the public aren’t really supposed to know about it (which is why the press and public got chucked out of the public meeting before those appendices were decided despite the public interest test arguably being in favour of such stuff being in the public domain).
Another factor to consider is that from November 2014 Wirral Council will be under a legal duty to publish such contracts (we here have a copy of the very long contract as part of the 2013/14 audit but it would probably take me about a day of work just to publish a fraction of it as it is very, very, very long) and from November 2014 invoices. Hence I’m sure Biffa are keen to have it extended by seven years, before people like the Rt Hon Frank Field MP start referring