Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Knowle relocation project: Breaking news >>>>>>>>>>>> FOI request goes to Tribunal: District Council loses appeal >>> further reports

The Information Tribunal has ordered the District Council to release documents about the Knowle relocation project:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Breaking news >>> FOI request goes to Tribunal: District Council loses appeal

Last night, the Save Our Sidmouth group issued a statement:

SOS Press Release on Tribunal decision

5th May 2015

In 2013, Jeremy Woodward, (SOS, (Save Our Sidmouth)), asked East Devon District Council, (EDDC), to release reports prepared by their Project Manager relating to the Relocation of their Knowle Offices. The reports contained information about the costs, programme and background to EDDC’s “ambition” to relocate their offices.

EDDC refused our request, , saying that this information was confidential. We appealed to the Information Commissioner, who ruled in our favour, saying that as the reports were prepared by an external consultant they should be released.

EDDC appealed against this decision, and the case went to a legal Tribunal which heard oral evidence in August 2014. After much further correspondence from EDDC , the Judge leading the Tribunal, in a Decision letter dated 5th May has ruled in our favour, saying that the Information Commissioner was correct in his interpretation and that information must be released. He is still waiting though for further information from EDDC so that he may make a judgement on the full extent of the disclosures.

In his judgement the Judge, B Kennedy QC says” This Tribunal takes the unusual and unfortunate step of commenting on the conduct of the appeal itself. We are unanimous in our view that this appeal has taken much longer than it should have done and the reason for this seems to be the failure on the part of the public authority, the appellant, to address itself with sufficient attention to the details of what information and documents it was supplying to the Commissioner and ultimately also to the Tribunal….Correspondence on behalf of the Council, rather than ensuring the Tribunal was assisted in its function, was at times discourteous and unhelpful…… We believe this appeal could and should have been dealt with completely at the hearing in August 2014 and the decision promulgated six months ago had the Council discharged its responsibilities properly.

EDDC has spent over £11,000 of public money in fighting this case, money which could have been spent on much more worthwhile and productive activities.

Throughout our campaign against the relocation of the Knowle we have continually been battling against EDDC errors, deliberate obfuscations and a refusal to examine rational options. A decision to confirm the re-location was made by the Council in late April based on what we still believe are very doubtful foundations.

We fully endorse the Judge’s conclusions on EDDC’s behaviour not only related to this particular event. We believe that EDDC personnel involved should be considering their positions.

SOS Press Release on Tribunal decision | Save Our Sidmouth

With further comment:
Tribunal QC makes special mention of “discourteous” and “unhelpful” conduct of the appellant (EDDC) | Save Our Sidmouth

The East Devon Watch blog points out that these reports should be published:
So, more Knowle information must be published | East Devon Watch

They also raise a further question:
Should Council officers shamed by QC’s comments, be considering their position? | East Devon Watch

And the East Devon Alliance has this comment:

EDDC loses appeal to keep info secret

Written by Cathy Gardner on 5-May-2015. Posted in Cathy Gardner, EDA news

News today confirms the disgraceful way EDDC has behaved in fighting this appeal and trying to hide information from the public relating to the move from the Knowle. The full story will be in Friday’s Sidmouth Herald but you can see the scathing comment from the judge here: http://futuresforumvgs.blogspot.co.uk/

It is no wonder that this ruling has come too late to allow us to see the information before the Council made its ‘final’ decisions on relocation.

This relates to the appeal made by EDDC against the finding of the Information Commissioner that the reports should be made public (redacted as necessary). Council tax payers money has been used to pay for this appeal for no benefit to the public. We will be able to judge why this information was so important in a few weeks. By then the election will be over and I hope to have access, with many other Independent Councillors, to all the information about the proposed relocation. I can’t wait….

EDDC loses appeal to keep info secret | East Devon Alliance

This is from the website of independent Cllr Claire Wright who has campaigned on this issue:
EDDC slammed over secrecy on office relocation by judge - Claire Wright

The District Council's press office have yet to issue a statement:
East Devon

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