Copy of Billingham Town Council management agreement

Roedd y cais yn llwyddiannus.

Dear Billingham Town Council,
This is a Freedom of Information request:

Please provide a copy of the Billingham Town Council management agreement made with Stockton Borough Council stipulating the Town Council’s responsibility for services and functions in John Whitehead Park.

NOTE: We wish to receive the information requested in an electronic form which is capable of re-use, in accordance with item 102 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 – “Release and publication of datasets held by public authorities” - preferably in the form of a microsoft word document.

Yours faithfully,

Kevin Bowler

Dianne Rickaby, Billingham Town Council

I reply to this request on behalf of Billingham Town Council from a
resolution made at our last Town Council meeting on 30 January 2018.
The request for a copy of the management agreement between Billingham Town
Council and Stockton Borough Council can not be supplied for the following
reason:
The agreement is under review and currently sits with the legal department
of Stockton Borough Council.
  
Kind regards,
Dianne
 
Dianne Rickaby
Executive Officer/ Responsible Finance Officer
to Billingham Town Council
01642 551171
07501460006
 
 
 
Disclaimer:  This e-mail may contain confidential and/or privileged
information.  If you have received it in error, please notify the sender
and delete it from your system.  Any unauthorised use, disclosure or
copying is not permitted.  Please be aware that e-mail communication is
not guaranteed to be secure.  This e-mail has been checked for viruses but
no responsibility is accepted for any damage caused by transmission of
this e-mail.  Opinions expressed may be those of the author and do not
necessarily represent the view of Billingham Town Council. 

Dear Billingham Town Council,
I am writing on behalf of North Billingham Residents Association (NBRA) to request an internal review of Billingham Town Council's handling of this FOI request for an Electronic copy of the management agreement made with Stockton Borough Council stipulating the Town Council’s responsibility for services and functions in John Whitehead Park.
You have not provided any reason to demonstrate or justify that the information requested is subject to any valid form of exemption. The fact that an existing agreement is being reviewed by one of the participating parties is not a reason in itself for an unspecified exemption without reference to the FOI Act 2000 to be applied.
NBRA call on the Internal review meeting members to direct the acting FOI officer to provide the actual information requested, namely the existing management agreement made with Stockton Borough Council stipulating the Town Council’s responsibility for services and functions in John Whitehead Park requested in an electronic format capable of reuse.

Yours faithfully,

Kevin Bowler

sheila smart,

Dear Mr Bowler

Your reply was taken to our Town Council meeting on 27 February 2018.

Council have discussed this and have asked me to forward the following
response;

The management agreement as specified is under review and therefore will
not be currently available for public inspection. Once the agreement is
finalised it will be made available for viewing.
Council agreed that no internal review is necessary.

Sheila Smart

Chairman to Billingham Town Council

Dear Sheila Smart, your comments are noted. However, the agenda for the meeting you referred to had no designated item listed for the internal review sought, or even discussion about the FOI itself. A member of the public who was in attendance had no recollection of any discussion taking place about this FOI request. These events raise a number of questions, but we will put these aside at the present point.

Neither of your responses to this FOI have provided the information requested, nor have they provided a valid reason for any exemptions to be applied with reference to relevant parts of the FOI Act 2000.

Your unwillingness to hold an internal review has been noted, and North Billingham Residents Association take the view that you have failed to understand and comply with your obligations of as defined in the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Bowler

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Bowler

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The Information Commissioner has been contacted with:
A complaint over the refusal of Billingham Town Council (BTC) to answer this Freedom of Information Request and:
A call on them to issue a notice on BTC to comply.

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

Details of the correspondence to the Information Commissioner:
I am writing to you on behalf of North Billingham Residents Association (NBRA) to log a complaint over the refusal of Billingham Town Council (BTC) to answer our Freedom of Information Request and call on you to issue a notice to them to comply.
The FOI was submitted electronically, and it along with all follow up correspondence can be viewed in the public domain via the link
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...
In summary, the key points of the complaint are:

• BTC did not provide the information requested (copy of their management agreement with Stockton Council) in an electronic format capable of re- use) and failed to provide a satisfactory justification for any exemption.
• BTC refused to hold an internal review and it is not clear who in the council took that decision.
• BTC still did not provide the information requested after responding to the call for an internal review.
We would also draw your attention to the following points:
BTC do not appear to have acted on the advice given to them by Deborah Clark Senior Case Officer in a previous case raised by us, Case Reference number FS50656670 when responding to this FOI.
Neither of BTC’s responses made the requestor aware that they can appeal decisions to refuse to supply FOI data requested the Information Commissioner.

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The complaint about this FOI request to the Information Commissioner has been responded to - reference number FS50733772. A case officer has been assigned to deal with the complaint.

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The case officer's initial comment is:
The right to complain to the Information Commissioner is given under Section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). However, a complaint may be deemed ineligible under section 50, if for example:

there is an undue delay before bringing a complaint to our attention, or;
you have not exhausted any complaints or internal review procedure which is provided by the public authority.

Although there is no statutory time set out in the FOIA within which public authorities must complete a review, the Commissioner has issued guidance on this matter. The Commissioner considers that a reasonable time for completing an internal review is 20 working days from the date of the request for review, and in no case should the total time taken exceed 40 working days.

Accordingly, I have written to Billingham Town Council requiring that it now conducts an internal review of their handling of this request and to inform you of the review outcome as soon as possible, and in any case within 20 working days of today’s date.

As we cannot progress this matter until the review procedure with Billingham Town Council is concluded this case will now be closed.

If you do not receive a response within 20 working days please contact us quoting the reference number on this response.

If you remain dissatisfied after having exhausted the public authority’s internal review process and would like us to look into the matter further, please contact us quoting the reference number on this message and providing us with a copy of the internal review decision. Your case will then be re-opened and progressed accordingly.

I hope you find the above information of use, but if you need to discuss the matter I can be contacted on the number below.

Yours sincerely

Jim Dunn
Case Officer
Information Commissioner’s Office

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The Billingham Town Council Clerk sent this E Mail message to the personal E Mail account of the North Billingham Residents Association Chairman:
Subject: Case Reference Number FS50733772
From: Dianne Rickaby
CC: sheila smart New

Dear Mr Bowler
With reference to the above case number, I have been advised by the Information Commissioners Office to reply directly to you.
At our Town Council Meeting on the 24 April 2018 members undertook a review of the initial response sent to you on 8 February regarding the request for a copy of the Town Council's Management Agreement for John Whitehead Park.

The council resolved from their review that the initial response still stands as the lease is currently being drawn up Stockton Borough Council's legal department and therefore no information is held within Billingham Town Council's records.

I have been advised to refer you to Stockton Borough Council should you wish to pursue this further.

Kind regards,

Dianne

Dianne Rickaby
Executive Officer/ Responsible Finance Officer
to Billingham Town Council
01642 551171
07501460006

Dear Billingham Town Council,
the outcome of your internal review as sent by Mrs. Rickaby to the personal E mail address of the North Billingham Residents Association (NBRA) Chairman was considered at our May 2018 meeting. There was unanimous agreement that it is totally unsatisfactory for numerous reasons, particularly as we have not sought any information about leases.
NBRA will not be contacting Stockton Council. However, further steps will be taken to make sure that the Town Council complies with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and provides the actual information requested.

Yours faithfully,

Kevin Bowler

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The following message has been sent to the Information Commissioner case officer:
Dear Mr Dunn, please re open Case Reference Number FS50733772 and instruct Billingham Town Council to provide the Information requested – a copy of the management agreement between the Town Council and Stockton Borough Council covering operations in John White head park.

Our residents association regards the outcome of the supposed review that you called the Town Council to undertake as totally unsatisfactory.

To date, no valid reason for an exemption to be applied has been given.

Please use the link below to track the messages that apply to this FOIR:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

I received this correspondence sent to my personal E Mail account by Mrs. Rickaby of Billingham Town Council in response from your instruction asking the Town Council to review their handling of the FOI:
-------- Original Message -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Subject: Case Reference Number FS50733772
From: Dianne Rickaby
CC: sheila smart New

Dear Mr Bowler

With reference to the above case number, I have been advised by the Information Commissioners Office to reply directly to you. At our Town Council Meeting on the 24 April 2018 members undertook a review of the initial response sent to you on 8 February regarding the request for a copy of the Town Council's Management Agreement for John Whitehead Park.

The council resolved from their review that the initial response still stands as the lease is currently being drawn up Stockton Borough Council's legal department and therefore no information is held within Billingham Town Council's records. I have been advised to refer you to Stockton Borough Council should you wish to pursue this further.
Kind regards, Dianne

Dianne Rickaby
Executive Officer/ Responsible Finance Officer to Billingham Town Council
_____________________________________________________
Please Note:

(1) Mrs Rickaby claims that she has been "advised by the Information Commissioners Office to reply directly to you." rather than via this or the designated "What do they Know" website contact E mail.

(2) Can you confirm that you actually asked her to do this, and if so why?

We also draw your attention to the following points to consider:

(3) We asked the Town Council for an electronic copy of the agreement referred to in their Winter 2015 Newsletter attached, namely ““Providing and managing facilities in John Whitehead Park in partnership with Stockton Borough Council - 'Cafe in the Park', Community Hub, Exercise Equipment, MUGA, Tennis Courts & Skatepark.”

(4) We assumed that such a partnership with a principal authority should have been subject to an agreement , consented to by both Councils.

(5) The Town Council initial response was that the agreement was under review and could not be provided. That was not - and is not a valid reason for an exemption to be applied.

(6) We already asked the Town Council to hold and internal review before you did. Their response was that they would not hold a review. They simply stuck by their original assertion, which was that an agreement would not be made available as it was "under review"

(7) The Council (via Mrs. Rickaby's message) have since claimed their members undertook a review of the initial response sent, at their meeting held on the 24 April 2018 .

(8) However, the agenda for that meeting April 2018 does not have any item, listed for such an FOIR review.

(9) The Town Council have not yet published minutes for that meeting.

(10) It is a breach of the Local Govt Act 1972 to resolve (make a decision) that does not correspond with the business to be transacted i.e. what is listed on the Agenda.

(11) Mrs. Rickaby’s states that the Internal Review indicates that they do not hold details of a “lease” - but we did NOT ask for details of any lease in our FOIR.

(12) We think it is implausible that copies of the agreement referred to in the Newsletter attached, (and possibly incremental versions) are not held by Billingham Town Council.

(13) The Town Council have failed to comply with their own FOI policy - their responses did not comply with article 9. “We will ……. remind requesters that they can appeal such decisions to the Information Commissioner. “
Thanks
Kevin Bowler
Chair, North Billingham Residents Association.

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The minutes of the April 2018 Billingham Town Council meeting state:
"FC1550/18 EXECUTIVE OFFICER’S UPDATE

Freedom of Information Requests
North Billingham Residents Association have referred three Freedom of Information Requests to the Information Commissioner's Office. It was requested that the Town Council carry out an internal review to the previous response to these request’s "

This is factually inaccurate by the Clerk (AKA "Executive Officer") : A case officer for the Information Commissioner has only instructed the Town Council to hold one internal review - for this freedom of Information request - not three as stated.

The Clerk reported in also reported in the minutes that "The management agreement between Billingham Town Council and Stockton on Tees Borough Council is still in negotiation".

This is a totally different statement to the response that she sent to the NBRA chairs personal E mail, stated here where she said "The council resolved from their review that the initial response still stands as the lease is currently being drawn up Stockton Borough Council's legal department and therefore no information is held within Billingham Town Council's records."

She has given two different supposed explanations to justify exemption, one to North Billingham Residents Association, and an another on her Town Council minutes. Neither makes any reference to a specific article of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. We wonder if the Town Councillors have agreed, or are aware that the minutes should indicate a different reason for exemption to that sent to the NBRA chair.

Dianne Rickaby, Billingham Town Council

(2nd response original sent on 10th May)
  
Dear Mr Bowler
With reference to the above case number, I have been advised by the
Information Commissioners Office to reply directly to you.
At our Town Council Meeting on the 24 April 2018 members undertook a
review of the initial response sent to you on 8 February regarding the 
request for  a copy  of the Town Council's Management Agreement for John
Whitehead Park.
The council resolved from their review that the initial response still
stands as the lease is currently being drawn up Stockton Borough Council's
legal department and therefore no information is held within Billingham
Town Council's records.
I have been advised to refer you to Stockton Borough Council should you
wish to pursue this further.
Kind regards,
Dianne
 
Dianne Rickaby
Executive Officer/ Responsible Finance Officer
to Billingham Town Council
01642 551171
07501460006
 
 
 
Disclaimer:  This e-mail may contain confidential and/or privileged
information.  If you have received it in error, please notify the sender
and delete it from your system.  Any unauthorised use, disclosure or
copying is not permitted.  Please be aware that e-mail communication is
not guaranteed to be secure.  This e-mail has been checked for viruses but
no responsibility is accepted for any damage caused by transmission of
this e-mail.  Opinions expressed may be those of the author and do not
necessarily represent the view of Billingham Town Council. 

Dear Mrs. Rickaby,
Why have you re-posted the same message that you sent to the NBRA chair's personal E Mail address back in May 2018, (already shown as an annotation here)? You have been already made aware that we were not asking for information about a lease. What you have re posted was already discussed and rejected as unsatisfactory by the attendees of the last North Billingham Residents Association meeting in May 2018.

Yours sincerely,
Kevin Bowler

Dianne Rickaby, Billingham Town Council

Mr Bowler
This is the standing reply from the full council which I have reiterated
in my latest email.
Should you have any further queries regarding this matter then can I
suggest you take it up at the next town council meeting. If you require an
agenda item to discuss this then you must give me the appropriate notice
as per our standing orders.
  
Kind regards,
Dianne
 
Dianne Rickaby
Executive Officer/ Responsible Finance Officer
to Billingham Town Council
01642 551171
07501460006
 
 
 
Disclaimer:  This e-mail may contain confidential and/or privileged
information.  If you have received it in error, please notify the sender
and delete it from your system.  Any unauthorised use, disclosure or
copying is not permitted.  Please be aware that e-mail communication is
not guaranteed to be secure.  This e-mail has been checked for viruses but
no responsibility is accepted for any damage caused by transmission of
this e-mail.  Opinions expressed may be those of the author and do not
necessarily represent the view of Billingham Town Council. 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Clare Gamble - BTC Scrutiny Panel, Billingham Town Council

Dear Mr. Bowler,

At the Town Council meeting held on 31st July 2018, it was resolved that our final response on this matter is as below:

There is currently no management agreement in place between Billingham Town Council and Stockton Borough Council so we are therefore unable to provide you with the required document. We have a new lease under negotiation. As soon as the terms are finalised and the agreement is signed. we will be happy to make this document available to you.

We thank you in advance for your patience.

Kind Regards

Clare Gamble
on behalf of Billilngham Town Council

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

Shortly after receiving the Town Council reply dated 31/07/2018 the case officer from the Information Commissioner was sent the following message:

Please advise what the current status is of our complaint, and what further steps will be pursued. Also please note the following:
On the 31st July 2018 the town Council stated that
"There is currently no management agreement in place between Billingham Town Council and Stockton Borough Council so we are therefore unable to provide you with the required document. We have a new lease under negotiation. As soon as the terms are finalised and the agreement is signed. we will be happy to make this document available to you."

It contradicts what the Clerk posted earlier in the year "The request for a copy of the management agreement between Billingham Town
Council and Stockton Borough Council can not be supplied for the following reason: The agreement is under review and currently sits with the legal department of Stockton Borough Council."

Was this July 31st 2018 statement made as a result of any recent correspondence between yourself and the Town Council?
We have repeatedly informed the Town Council that we are not asking for details of a lease.

We are seeking the agreement relating to a claimed partnership between the Town Council & Stockton Borough Council for the management of facilities in a local park: Billingham Matters newsletter, Winter 2015, page 3
"What Billingham Town Council have achieved - Facilities in John Whitehead Park - Providing and managing facilities in John Whitehead Park in partnership with Stockton Borough Council"

Thanks

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

A new case officer from the Information Commissioner sent a message dated 21/08/2018
Case Reference Number FS50733772
Dear Mr Bowler,
Please find attached my initial letter with regards to your information request complaint about Billingham Town Council.
_________________________________________________________
(This is the content of the attached letter)
I write to inform you that your case has now been allocated to me to investigate. This letter will explain how I intend to do this. It will also provide you with contact details so that you can get in touch with me if you need to.

What happens now

Where possible the Information Commissioner prefers complaints to be resolved informally and we ask both parties to be open to compromise. With this in mind, I will write to the council and ask it to revisit your request. It may wish to reverse or amend its position. If it does, it will contact you again directly about this.

In any event, it must provide us with its full and final arguments in support of its position. Once I receive its arguments, I will consider its reply before either contacting you to discuss the matter further or preparing a decision notice. Further information is available on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/gui...

The request

On 16 January 2018, you made the following information request to the council:

“Please provide a copy of the Billingham Town Council management agreement made with Stockton Borough Council stipulating the Town Council’s responsibility for services and functions in John Whitehead Park.”

The council responded on the 8 February 2018 stating that the agreement cannot be provided as it is under review and is currently with Stockton borough Council’s legal department.

You requested an internal review on 19 February 2018 as the council had not provided you with an exemption that it was relying on to refuse your request.

The council responded on the 5 March stating that, following council discussion, the Management Agreement is under review and will not be available for public inspection. Once finalised it will be made available for viewing. The council stated that it was agreed that no internal review was necessary.

You complained to the Commissioner on the 21 March 2018, dissatisfied with the council’s response.

Following contact from the Commissioner, the council issued an internal review response on the 10 May 2018. It stated that as the lease is currently being drawn up by Stockton Borough Council’s legal department, the council does not hold the information in its records.

It advised that you should therefore contact Stockton Borough Council to request the information from them.

Following further correspondence between yourself and the council, you advised it, on the 14 June 2018, that you are not requesting information about a lease.

The council responded on the 1 August 2018 stating that there is currently no Management Agreement in place between the council and Stockton Borough Council and so are therefore unable to provide the required document. It stated that a new lease is under negotiation and as soon as the terms are finalised and the agreement is signed, it can be made available to you.

You have contacted the Commissioner further querying this response as it contradicts the council’s initial response that it is currently under review with Stockton Borough Council’s legal department.

The scope of the case

The focus of my investigation will be to determine whether the council handled your request in accordance with the FOIA. Specifically, I will look at whether it is correct when it says that it does not hold the information you requested.

In scenarios where there is some dispute between the amount of information located by a public authority and the amount of information that a complainant believes may be held, the ICO, following the lead of a number of Information Tribunal decisions, applies the civil standard of the balance of probabilities.

In other words, in order to determine such complaints the ICO must decide whether on the balance of probabilities a public authority holds any information which falls within the scope of the request (or was held at the time of the request).

As part of my enquiries, I will be asking the council to explain its discrepancies with its initial response and last response.

Please contact me within the next 10 working days, that is, by 6 September 2018 if there are matters other than these that you believe should be addressed. This will help avoid any unnecessary delay in investigating your complaint. If I do not hear from you by this date, my investigation will focus only upon the matters identified above.

With regards to your later correspondence to Mr Jim Dunn, the reason you have not received a further response from him is because once he has progressed the case in to the relevant workqueue (to await being assigned to a case officer to investigate) he does not see any of the further correspondence that comes on to the case.

With regards to your query as to why Mr Dunn told the council to respond to yourself directly rather than via WhatDoTheyKnow. He was responding to the council's enquiry asking him whether it should be issuing its response to your information request to the ICO or to yourself.

Mr Dunn informed the council to send its response to you - it appears the council took this to mean to respond to your personal email rather than via WhatDoTheyKnow. I can confirm that Mr Dunn did not advise the council to respond to your personal email address.

I hope this helps to clarify this query.
(End of content of attached letter)
________________________________________________________

With regards to the investigation into your information request, this is explained in the attached letter.Please note that to reply to this correspondence it will be necessary to reply directly without changing any of the details in the subject box. This will ensure that your correspondence is allocated to the correct case.
With regards to your later correspondence to Mr Jim Dunn, the reason you have not received a further response from him is because once he has progressed the case in to the relevant workqueue (to await being assigned to a case officer to investigate) he does not see any of the further correspondence that comes on to the case.

With regards to your query as to why Mr Dunn told the council to respond to yourself directly rather than via WhatDoTheyKnow. He was responding to the council's enquiry asking him whether it should be issuing its response to your information request to the ICO or to yourself.

Mr Dunn informed the council to send its response to you - it appears the council took this to mean to respond to your personal email rather than via WhatDoTheyKnow. I can confirm that Mr Dunn did not advise the council to respond to your personal email address.

I hope this helps to clarify this query.

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The following reply was sent to the Information Commissioner case officer on 24/08/2018:
Thanks very much for your update on our complaint and for detailing the approach you intend to follow. We also request the following:

If you establish that one or more management agreements have been produced, we believe that the Council's initial response was in breach of the FOI Act 2000. Should that be the case, we would therefore ask you to instruct the Council to provide a copy of the most recent version that was in force. (If none were ever in force, then we believe that we are entitled to receive a copy of the most recent draft version. )

If you establish that no management agreements have ever been produced, the Council need to account for why they stated to every household in Billingham in their Winter 2015 magazine that they had been "Providing and managing facilities in John Whitehead Park in partnership with Stockton Borough Council". We find it very difficult to believe that this would have been done without a written and signed management agreement that defines the scope of the claimed "Partnership" between the two councils.

Regards

BTC Scrutiny Panel, Billingham Town Council

1 Atodiad

Good Afternoon,
Please see attached the last agreed Partnership Agreement between Stockton
Borough Council and Billingham Town Council which is dated 25th June 2013.
Kind Regards
Cllr Clare Gamble
on behalf of Biillingham Town Council Scrutiny Panel

Dear Clare Gamble, BTC Scrutiny Panel,
once again we thank your for providing the information we originally requested in January 2018. However, you have supplied a scanned image of a paper print out. We actually requested the information in an electronic form which is capable of re-use, in accordance with item 102 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 – “Release and publication of data sets held by public authorities”.

Please could you re supply a copy of the management agreement in a format which is capable of re use as stipulated above, so that we can bring this Freedom of Information request to a satisfactory conclusion. A microsoft word document or pdf file with selectable electronic text would be ideal.
Yours sincerely,
Kevin Bowler
Chair, North Billingham Residents Association

Dear BTC Scrutiny Panel, we requested the management agreement from the outset to be supplied in an electronic format capable of reuse. We contacted you in September 2018 and asked for the agreement that you uploaded to be supplied in an electronic format, having been provided with a scanned hard copy, but you have not responded.

Please could you provide an electronic copy of the agreement ASAP so that this FOI request can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Bowler

BTC Scrutiny Panel, Billingham Town Council

1 Atodiad

Good Morning,
Please see attached the requested document in electronic copy capable of
reuse as requested.
Kind Regards
Cllr Clare Gamble
on behalf of Billingham Town Council Scrutiny Panel

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Clare Gamble (BTC Scrutiny Panel), thank you for your input into this request, and for providing a copy of the management agreement in an electronic format as originally requested. This Freedom of Information request can now be considered as completed.

Yours sincerely,
Kevin Bowler
Chair, North Billingham Residents Association.