Thursday, 4 September 2014

Knowle relocation project: further FOI requests this week

There have been several Freedom of Information requests made regarding the District Council's plans to move from Knowle:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: further FOI requests

One FOI request in particular has gone to the Information Tribunal:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: FOI request goes to tribunal: detailed report of proceedings

This week, three new FOI requests have been submitted to the District Council through the website 
WhatDoTheyKnow - Make and browse Freedom of Information (FOI) requests:

Assistance in understanding the employment status of a consultant to EDDC

1st September 2014
At the First Tier Tribunal hearing at Exeter, (Information
Commissioner v EDDC) on 28th August 2014, Richard Cohen of EDDC
asserted, as we understood it, that a consultant employed by Davis
Langdon, Steve Pratten, on an EDDC awarded contract, was 'embedded'
in East Devon District Council.

I make this request for further detail of the status of Mr Pratten
in order to fully understand why and how Mr Pratten is afforded
such special status amongst the many consultants employed,
indirectly or otherwise, by EDDC. Some of the scenarios suggested
are, like those put by the ICO counsel at the hearing, hypothetical
but purely intended as a means to clarify and understand the
arrangements, and are not comments on Mr Pratten's ability or
conduct which is not questioned.

Whilst the list of questions may appear long I believe they are
simple questions in the main, that Mr Cohen and your HR might be
expected to answer with little effort and minimal delay, with many
by a simple yes or no...

1. Will you kindly provide all references (as fully detailed as
possible) that are held by EDDC and which demonstrate the unique
and special status of 'embedded' that has been afforded to Mr
Pratten. (These need not include those documents supplied to the
hearing in the 'Open' or 'Closed' bundles)

2. The Relocation Resource Requirement (RRR) document applicable to
the matter contains a considerable degree of specifics as to the
person to be supplied by Davis Langdon and his qualifications etc,
but there is no mention of any 'embedded' status. Please explain
such an important omission .

3. Does EDDC pay Mr Pratten's National Insurance contributions

4. Does EDDC contribute directly to any pension plan on behalf of
Mr Pratten? ? If so details please.

5. Does Mr Pratten make any travel or subsistence claims directly
to EDDC? If so broad details please.

6. Do you make any direct tax deductions from Mr Pratten's

7. Is Mr Pratten entitled to any leave from EDDC? If so details

8. Are any 'additional benefits' that are available to EDDC
employed officers (e.g. health insurance or any other staff
benefits) available by right to Mr Pratten? ? If so details please.

9. Does Mr Pratten belong to any EDDC staff association? If so
details please.

10. Does Mr Pratten have any maintenance contract for his Davis
Langdon laptop with EDDC's IT department? If so details please.

11. Does Mr Pratten have a formal written contract of employment
with EDDC? (in addition to any contract he may have with Davis
Langdon) If so details please.

12. Who is Mr Pratten's line manager? Please provide evidence of
the arrangements for issue resolution etc where any such issue
might not be capable of being resolved with his line manager

13. Are there Terms of Notice of Employment Termination that Mr
Pratten must give to EDDC (as opposed to Davis Langdon) should he
decide to leave for any reason? If so details please.

14. What procedure would Mr Pratten follow if he had any complaint
about his line manager or any aspect of his duties as Project
Manager at EDDC? What would the line of appeal, if any matter could
not be resolved with his line manager, be?

15. Is Mr Pratten subject to an EDDC Appraisal policy as might
apply to conventionally contracted employees? If so details please.

16. Mr Cohen advised the hearing that Mr Pratten had accepted the
usual conditions that persons working at EDDC were obliged to
accept. If Mr Pratten were to breach EDDC codes and conditions and
be subject to disciplinary procedure, what form would they take?
Does he have an EDDC staff handbook about such procedures?

17. Does EDDC offer Mr Pratten any career development support or

18. Does Mr Pratten have an EDDC issued mobile phone? If so is he
allowed to use it for private purposes?

19. Does EDDC reimburse Mr Pratten any subsistence claims?

20. If Mr Pratten resided in the EDDC area, would EDDC have the
legal authority to prevent him from standing in any election if he
might wish to do so?

21. An employer is vicariously liable for losses to a third party
caused by any negligence by an employee. Would EDDC accept
liability in the unlikely event that Mr Pratten might cause a loss
to a third party in his role at EDDC, or would they regard
liability as residing with David Langdon?

Assistance in understanding the employment status of a consultant to EDDC - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

Clarification of the public consultation that took place about The Knowle relocation project

3 September 2014

At the First Tier Tribunal hearing at Exeter, (Information
Commissioner v EDDC) on 28th August 2014, Richard Cohen of EDDC
gave evidence about the manner in which the council had discharged
its duty to consult in the matter of the relocation of the Knowle
offices. He spoke in general terms of stakeholder meetings press
releases, FAQs on East Devon's website and other events. He gave no
precise detail of the consultations nor the degree of approval or
otherwise by the public, and many were left confused by his

The reaction of the public present at the hearing to Mr Cohen's
answers suggested that they did not agree that there had been
adequate consultation with the public. Unfortunately, EDDC's past
reputation for thorough and reliable public consultation exercises,
as may be judged from local press, is less than might be hoped for.
(The Exmouth Masterplan consultation, for example, was subsequently
shown to be a completely unreliable and unsound exercise conducted
through self-selecting respondents).

For the public to have trust in East Devon District Council, we
feel that it is essential that they, EDDC, demonstrate fully how
they have discharged their duty to consult. We hope the following
questions will welcomed as an opportunity to clarify the existing
doubt and confusion in regard to the project.

The following questions are intended to clarify the nature, degree
and thoroughness of the consultations and to distinguish between
where EDDC has consulted, in the accepted sense of the word, and
where it has simply made announcements of decisions.

Please note that the questions refer to the Knowle relocation and
not to the separate issue of the required planning consent
consultation in relation to outline planning consent re the Knowle
- which Mr Cohen appeared to be including in his evidence to the

Question 1.
FAQs. On the council's website at
http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/movingandimp... there is a link a
FAQ page. It is not clear how did these questions arose? Were they
only from the Stakeholder meeting Event of 26th July 2013 as
suggested by that heading on the page concerned? Are they all
verbatim questions from the public or paraphrased or otherwise
generated by EDDC? Details please.

Question 2.
If the FAQs come from one meeting, how have you treated other
questions and comments from interested parties, can they be found
online or elsewhere?

Question 3.
Is there anywhere on an EDDC website where the public can make
comments or ask questions, and expect replies from EDDC about the
Knowle project, as with the EDDC Exmouth Vision website? If so
where. If not why no provision for two-way exchanges?

Question 4.
We were given to understand that two Stakeholder Meetings were
held. Where were these held, who was invited, how were invitees
selected, were they open to all? (The EDDC photo * for the 26 July
2013 event appears to show only EDDC staff and councillors rather
than stakeholders in the wider sense of members of public.)
page 5 )

Question 5.
It is reported that there were events in Sidmouth. Please provide
fuller detail of these and indicate, how they were promoted, the
form they took, how many attended, how EDDC recorded and used the
information that flowed from the interaction with the public at
these events.

Question 6.
Some of the relocation material correctly makes the point that the
relocation issue is not just a matter for Sidmouth but the whole of
the East Devon District. Will you please give explicit details of
how EDDC involved residents and businesses in all other parts of
the district. Were, for example, there any events in Exmouth,
Seaton or Axminster etc? Please provide detail of any such events
and outcomes.

Question 7.
Mr Cohen spoke of there being a number of press releases, around
forty as we recall. Where may these be seen in their entirety?
Would you accept that such releases are information provision
rather formal consultation, or were they part of a two way exercise
where you also collated responses to the releases? If so, where may
any such responses be found?

Question 8.
The term 'consultation' exercise as used by EDDC implies a
democratic interaction with others, the consideration of
alternative views and incorporating them, where valid, into
existing plans. The term appears frequently used when it would be
more appropriate to speak of 'notification' or 'explanation'
exercises which are one-way. What evidence is there from EDDC's
consultations over the Knowle, that demonstrates that the exercise
was more than EDDC simply informing members of the public of some
of what they were doing on the matter, that it was also a listen
and consider exercise? Please give examples of feedback from the
public that has resulted in significant change, thus demonstrating
that the consultation was effective.

Question 9.
EDDC has made references to the numbers of persons providing
feedback, but at the Exeter hearing there was no distinction
between supporters and objectors. A complaint arising from the
Exmouth Masterplan consultation was to the effect that EDDC used
feedback numbers in ambiguous terms that may have been interpreted
as meaning that support was greater than objection. In regard to
the Knowle consultations, if any such data as to support or
objection was collected, then please provide a breakdown showing
the levels of each from each consultation exercise.

Question 10.
Para 1.8 of the report from Davis Langdon** that was submitted to
the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 26th July 2012, states;-
‘Communications from Members and Members of the Public have
continued to be received during the period. A protocol has now been
agreed on how responses will be managed and properly coordinated.
It is intended that individual replies will be avoided where
possible, as the responses will be uploaded on the FAQs section of
the Council’s Website for general public consumption’.
Please provide a copy of the protocol referred to. Are the FAQs
that appear to relate to 26th July 2013 Stakeholder event one and
the same? If so why the delay in publishing the FAQs?

Question 11.
Is there a single coordinated record of comments, observations and
objections from the public? If so where may it be seen?

Question 12.
Will you please provide a timeline, rather fuller than that
appearing in your recent publication "East Devon Extra" starting
with the decision to re-locate from the Knowle, and showing key
decisions and all consultation events and elements. This should
serve to clearly demonstrate which events and opportunities for
debate, discussion and submissions preceded various important
decisions, and which followed important decisions. Such a timeline
should deal with any doubts as to whether consultations served to
inform decision making or were made to keep the public advised as
to progress. Would you include projected project costs at key
points. These seem to have risen and it would be helpful to see
when and perhaps why.

Clarification of the public consultation that took place about The Knowle relocation project - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

"Unfettered access" to EDDC council system- Data Protection Issues

4th September 2014

We read in the Express and Echo dated today 4th September, in a
report about the ICO hearing at Exeter on 28th August concerning
EDDC's right to restrict confidential information, that Richard
Cohen, Deputy C.E.O. is reported as giving evidence that a private
consultant, Steve Pratten, had quote, "unfettered access" to the
council system.

Question 1. Is the quote an accurate quote from evidence that was
given under oath? Does Mr Pratten have "unfettered access" ?

Question 2. Does 'the council system' contain information about all
the council's roles and duties and include highly personal and
confidential information about staff, residents and other parties,
obtained in confidence in the course of their duties?

Question 3.What is the council's explanation for allowing a private
individual, employed as a consultant for a major building
project,to have unfettered access to a system that would likely
contain highly confidential and personal information including, for
example, residents financial and health details?

Question 4.Would such allowing "unfettered access" not amount to a
clear breach of the Data Protection Act and indeed, the council's
wider duty of confidentiality?

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