Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been agreed to be spent behind closed doors, without the benefit of the public being able to scrutinise the decisions nor the agenda papers and minutes.
This paperwork and these decisions are very much in the public interest, especially in view of people’s concerns about the justification for the proposed move, not to mention the council’s perilous financial position.
The only thing to do is to refer the decision to the information commissioner.
The freedom of information response states:
The information which you have asked to be published is two-fold:
1. The minutes of the office relocation working party
2. Reports to Cabinet regarding the office relocation project (which were considered under Part B)
We consider that the minutes of this working party are exempt from disclosure under s36 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Having considered the public interest test, our view is that the disclosure of these minutes is likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs by inhibiting the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation and thereby potentially impairing the quality of decision-making by the authority. On balance it is the Council’s view that the public interest lies in maintaining the exemption
Having considered each report which is relevant to your request, our view is that the disclosure of this information would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of this Authority, and, as such, the information is exempt under s 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act. Your request states that you would be happy for information to be published “with commercially sensitive information redacted” and we have considered the appropriateness of doing so. However, it is our opinion that the redaction of such detail would leave us with meaningless and incomprehensible reports and we see no public benefit in disclosing such information.