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Incinerator FOI Complaints Delayed Again by GCC officers

posted 30 Jun 2015, 14:36 by planning users

GlosVAIN Press Release, 28/6/2015


Complaints demanding release of financial details of incinerator contract

delayed again by Gloucestershire County Council officers

Hidden Contract

A Freedom of Information request for the financial details of the Javelin Park Incinerator contract has twice been delayed by GCC. A delay of 20 days is now followed by a further 4 week delay, as the council has again sought more time before responding to enquiries.

"You have to ask why GCC are indulging in these bureaucratic manoeuvres,” said GlosVain spokesman and Haresfield resident Cos Ttofa, "other opponents of the incinerator are also frustrated by these delays and GlosVAIN suspect these are deliberate tactics on the part of the council to withhold the financial details of the deeply controversial incinerator for as long as possible".

Mr. Ttofa went on to note the recent Local Government Transparency Code, October 2014, which obliges councils to be transparent, and states "The Government has not seen any evidence that publishing details about contracts entered into by local authorities would prejudice procurement exercises or the interests of commercial organisations, or breach commercial confidentiality."

He also pointed out the precedents of other incinerator contracts (e.g. East Riding of Yorkshire and Nottingham) for which the Information Commissioner has ruled that the key financial details must be disclosed, specifically "All information relating to pricing contained within the contract other than that highlighting specific costs or profits of the contractor."

GlosVAIN calculate that the 2 working monthsworth of delays caused by GCC will have the effect of keeping the financial details hidden during this critical period for the Javelin Park project, as the High Court to challenge Eric Picklesgranting of planning permission is currently being determined. This case will be pivotal to the fate of the incinerator. Should Stroud DC win the case, the Secretary of State will need to reconsider the Appeal against the refusal of planning permission.



Notes to Editors

GCC first delayed the process of responding to the requests and subsequent complaints in February, when a further 20 days were taken on top of the usual 20 for the council to make its full, initial response. By mid-April, the council had responded to a complaint by reiterating its refusal to release the information.

FOI Requestors have since referred their complaint to the government Information Commissioners Office (ICO), where the case is currently under review. Deadlines placed on GCC by the ICO Case Officer to respond to enquiries have been missed. Instead, the council has further delayed the process by requesting a further 4 weeks from the ICO to respond. GCC has claimed as its justification for its request for further time that the project leader for residual waste is currently away from the office.

  • At the Councils Extraordinary Meeting that took place on 18th February, many councilors voting on whether or not to terminate the incinerator contract, complained about the lack of access to the relevant financial information. The contract termination costs remain undisclosed. A wide variety of figures were cited by GCCs leaders, ranging from £60m to £150m, but none of these have been substantiated.

  • GlosVAIN contends that the full contract, including termination costs, is needed to allow proper scrutiny of the soundness or otherwise of the case for continuing with the incinerator. Lack of transparency is directly affecting the democratic processes in the Council, with potentially enormous financial ramifications.

  • A“38 Degrees” petition demanding contract disclosure has obtained over 4,600 signatures, showing the genuine weight of public interest and concern about non-disclosure of this information.

  • The reasons allowable for withholding the information under the heading of "commercial confidentiality" would have to be that there is either a trade secret that disclosure would reveal, or, that the commercial interests of GCC or UBB would be prejudiced. These would have to outweigh the public interest for releasing the information in order for the information to be withheld.

  • The Information Commissioners office is the UKs independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

  • Timeline of incinerator contract FOI requests (2015)

    • 25th Jan - Original request sent by resident to obtain incinerator contract details.

  • 19th Feb - GCC respond after taking full 20 days allowable. Refusal of request given, together with statement that more time needed to conduct a public interest test.

  • 5th Mar - detailed case for disclosure submitted to GCC by Haresfield resident whilst awaiting their response. The disclosure of key contract financial details by other authorities in relation to incinerators, as mandated on appeal to the Information Commissioner's Office was cited. More detail in 11 Mar GlosVAIN press release here.

  • 13 Mar - GCC provide response and re-release contract and schedules. However, still heavily redacted and not a single piece of additional financial information disclosed, with GCC again citing commercial confidentiality as the reason.

  • 14 Apr - GCC communicate outcome of internal review, which is that they believe they are right to continue to withhold the financial information for commercial confidentiality reasons.

  • 6 May - Complaint made to Information Commissioners Office (ICO)

  • 15 May - Case allocated to ICO case officer

  • 15 June - the deadline that had been given to GCC by ICO to respond to enquiries relating to complaint

  • 16 June - GCC request further time to respond. New deadline agreed between ICO and GCC of 15 July (additional 4 weeks). GCC cite unavailability of residual waste project lead as reason for delay.

    • 15 July - the revised deadline for response by GCC to ICO