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Request to see LRIE email exchanges refused by council

Local authority described the NWN's FOI as "manifestly unreasonable"

Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper

dan.cooper@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886632

Request to see LRIE email exchanges refused by council

WEST Berkshire Council has refused a request to publish all of its email exchanges with developer St Modwen relating to the unlawful contract signed between the two parties in 2015.

The council spent £109,000 of taxpayers’ money on selecting St Modwen as its preferred partner for the regeneration of the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) and entering into the development agreement in 2015.

However, last year the Court of Appeal ruled the deal as unlawful and declared it ineffective, meaning the council has to start all over again.

The Newbury Weekly News’ Freedom of Information request asked to see all the email exchanges specifically relating to that agreement.

However, the council turned down the request, describing it as “manifestly unreasonable” due to the amount of staff time it would take to complete.

It added that this “burden” outweighed the public interest and also claimed the request was worded to “try and catch information”.

The full email from the council read: “I have now scoped your request for all email exchanges between the council and St Modwen in relation to the London Road Industrial Estate regeneration (LRIE) and I can now confirm that the council is refusing your request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 exception; ‘manifestly unreasonable’.

“The reasons for this are as follows;

“The LRIE regeneration project has been running since 2010 and has required the involvement of several council employees across various council services.

“I have been informed that the email correspondence that you have requested is held within the individual email inboxes of the council officers who have been involved in the project, some of which have now left the council’s employment.

“This email correspondence has not been saved in a central file, due to the input by different services.

“Therefore, in order to locate and retrieve this correspondence the council’s ICT department would need to carry out a search on the various officers’ email accounts, spanning nearly a decade, using keywords such as; ‘London Road Industrial Estate’ and ‘LRIE’.

“This search is likely to capture hundreds of email threads and their separate attached documents, some of which will not be relevant to this request.

“There is also a chance that this search will not detect certain emails that are relevant, if they do not contain the keywords used by ICT during their search.

“Therefore, we cannot guarantee that the search will be accurate.

“I believe that the work required to complete this search will exceed the appropriate limit and will place a disproportionate burden on the authority.

“I have also taken into account the public interest in the council dedicating the resources required to collate and respond to your request.

“In my opinion, as your request has been worded in a way to attempt to ‘catch’ information rather than requesting specific recorded information, I do not believe that the public interest outweighs the burden that would be placed on the authority by having to comply with the request, as it is worded.

“The council will shortly be publishing a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document on its website  in relation to the LRIE, which includes information on the project and provides answers to certain questions that have been submitted to the council.

“Therefore, I am satisfied that public interest will be served by the council in its attempt to make information available and by publishing answers to specific questions that have been submitted by members of the public.”

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Article comments

  • Greenberet

    04/02/2019 - 16:04

    Sounds like a convenient excuse to me. Surely, in addition to a database search (which really only involves someone pressing a few buttons for a day) they can send an email to everyone in the departments involved asking them to forward any relevant emails to ICT to collate. The FOI act provides excuses when they really need them. Although, it sounds like the request could’ve been worded better. Try again NWN, maybe get your legal department to word the FOI request?

    Reply

  • Thief

    04/02/2019 - 15:03

    There is little wonder that there is an increase in parking restrictions and traffic wardens. Further lies around the green bin ‘tax’. Well done West Berkshire Council, you lying, thieving, corrupt.....

    Reply

    • Greenberet

      04/02/2019 - 16:04

      The parking enforcement department is understaffed. 1 new CEO has been recruited in the last 12 months

      Reply

      • Thief

        05/02/2019 - 11:11

        Funny how I continuously see them at all hours of the day and night. Motorists used as an easy target, to gain revenue, for what appears to be a corrupt council.

        Reply

        • Greenberet

          05/02/2019 - 14:02

          And quite how you can connect the LRIE to parking is beyond me. Do you actually know how many request the council gets from residents to introduce parking controls? Do you know how many restrictions were REMOVED in the last parking review. Exactly, you don’t. I do because I’ve rang up the highways department and asked them

          Reply

        • Greenberet

          05/02/2019 - 14:02

          So drivers ignore the rules of the road that apply to everyone and that’s the councils fault, right of course it is.. How you can think the council is “corrupt” for fulfilling their statutory duty under the traffic management act shows you are just a silly moaner with little real practical knowledge. Go to a country with real corruption and you may realise you’re actually very lucky to live here.

          Reply

        • Thief

          06/02/2019 - 12:12

          I think it says a lot about you, if you can only respond with petty insults.

          Reply

        • Thief

          06/02/2019 - 09:09

          Two words, cash cow...

          Reply

  • Bombey

    04/02/2019 - 13:01

    only illegal under EU law....

    Reply

    • Greenberet

      04/02/2019 - 16:04

      Precisely. I bet a lot of the people moaning about this are are brexiteers, so they should be saying “hurry up brexit so we’re not governed by silly EU laws and let the council award this project to the right company”. This is a EU problem not caused by the council.

      Reply

  • Owen1

    04/02/2019 - 11:11

    Hiding information, hmmmmm, some misleading information perhaps?

    Reply

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