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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mystery Man Investigation

On May the 14th of this year KEIOC reported that Knowsley council, after taking expert advice, had taken the decision not to reveal the contents of an email under a freedom of information [FOI] act request as to do so would identify a person attached to the Destination Kirkby project whose involvement hadn't  previously been acknowledged.


This decision has been challenged and the Governments Information Commissioner has now decided to investigate the decision.

The specific reason offered by KMBC for not revealing the contents of the email is that identification of this person or organisation would be prejudicial to the council’s future dealings with “matters which are sensitive and complicated and would prejudice the conduct of public affairs.”

KMBC have used the “matters which are too complex” argument before when they refused the residents of Kirkby a referendum on the basis that issues surrounding the then proposed redevelopment were too complex for them to understand; with the benefit of hindsight some would say they were perhaps too complex for that council to understand.

This present stance would be somewhat understandable if it were the specific contents of the email that were prejudicial to future ongoing negotiations; but a specific person or organisation? The public has the right to know who their elected officials are dealing with and it would appear that the Government would agree.

The public body responsible for ensuring councils comply with FOI requests is the Information Commissioners Office; KMBC has previously felt the wrath of the Commissioners when they were issued with a decision notice due to their non-compliance with the terms of the act when dealing with this specific case.

The detailed reasons given by KMBC for not identifying the individual or organisation are given here.

The specific exemption, section 36, being used by KMBC can be found here.

We’ll bring you further details as the saga continues to unfold.
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