Correspondence relating to the creation of a Pennine Unitary Authority

Ged Mirfin made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council

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Gwrthodwyd y cais gan Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.

Dear Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council,

Please can I obtain copies of all correspondence relating to the creation of a Pennine Unitary Authority which have taken place over the past 24 months between the following individuals: Geoff Driver, the Leader of Lancashire County Council, Angie Ridgwell, the Chief Executive of Lancashire County Council, Mohammed Khan, the Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council and Denise Park, the Chief Executive of Blackburn with Darwen Council

Yours faithfully,

Ged Mirfin

Accesstoinformation, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council

Dear Ged,

Thank you for your request for information regarding ‘Correspondence relating to the creation of a Pennine Unitary Authority’ (reference number 06448). Your request was received on the 07/08/20 and I am dealing with it under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and/or Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

In some circumstances a fee may be payable and if that is the case, I will let you know. A fees notice will be issued to you, and you will be required to pay before we will proceed to deal with your request.

If you have any queries about this request, please contact Information Governance on 01254 585852. Alternatively, our email address is [Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council request email]

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Kind Regards,

Heather Wolstenholme
Information Governance Officer
Email: [email address]
01254 585651

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Accesstoinformation, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council

Dear Mr Mirfin,

In relation to your email below where you have requested ' copies of all correspondence relating to the creation of a Pennine Unitary Authority which have taken place over the past 24 months between the following individuals: Geoff Driver, the Leader of Lancashire County Council, Angie Ridgwell, the Chief Executive of Lancashire County Council, Mohammed Khan, the Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council and Denise Park, the Chief Executive of Blackburn with Darwen Council' our ref 06448, please be advised of the following:

Blackburn with Darwen Council are currently considering applying an exemption to this data disclosure under the qualified exemption at Section 36 of the FOIA (full text refers) https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/200...

In order to consider this request and determine whether the public interest lies in favour of upholding or not upholding this exemption, we are conducting a public interest test. This will be chaired by the Council's Monitoring Officer.

As section 36 is a qualified exemption, a public authority may, if necessary, under section 10(3), extend the 20 day time limit in order to consider the balance of public interest. We expect this public interests test to be conducted and concluded within the next 7-10 days. We will forward you the outcome as soon as we possibly can.

Kind Regards

Information Governance
Blackburn with Darwen Council
Email: [Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council request email]
Tel: 01254 585852

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Accesstoinformation, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council

2 Atodiad

Dear Mr Mirfin

 

Thank you for your attached request for information regarding
‘Correspondence on the creation of a Pennine Unitary Authority’ (our
reference 06448); Please find our response below.

 

You asked:

 

Please can I obtain copies of all correspondence relating to the creation
of a Pennine Unitary Authority which have taken place over the past 24
months between the following individuals: Geoff Driver, the Leader of
Lancashire County Council, Angie Ridgwell, the Chief Executive of
Lancashire County Council, Mohammed Khan, the Leader of Blackburn with
Darwen Council and Denise Park, the Chief Executive of Blackburn with
Darwen Council

We are refusing to disclose this information as it is our view that it is
exempt from disclosure under Sections 36(2)(b)(ii), Information to which
this section applies is exempt information if, in the reasonable opinion
of a qualified person, disclosure of the information under this Act— b)
would, or would be likely to, i.) inhibit the free and frank provision of
advice, or ii.) the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of
deliberation  and 36(2)(c), Information if disclosed, in the reasonable
opinions of a qualified person, would or would likely to prejudice the
effective conduct of public affairs

 

As Section 36 is a qualified exemption we are recquired to conduct a
Public Interest Test (PIT) on the request and any possible disclosure. 
This has been conducted by the Council’s Monitoring Officer who is the
Qualified Person for the purposes of Section 36.

 

When conducting the PIT the following factors were considered:

 

Disclosure:

 

For purposes of transparency and to promote public trust

 

Withhold

 

The correspondence relates to important political discussions in creating
a new unitary authority in East Lancashire which would be of public
benefit.  Disclosure of correspondence between the Leaders and CEOs of BwD
and LCC would inhibit free and frank disclosure and discussions in the
future.  This loss of openness would impact discussions leading to poorer
decision-making.  

 

A disclosure to the general public at large is also considered to
prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs in that it would make
the discussions between the local authorities more difficult and hinder
progress in achieving the collective objectives.

 

With regard to ‘likely to prejudice’, the Information Tribunal in John
Connor Press Associates Limited v The Information Commissioner
(EA/2005/0005) confirmed that “the chance of prejudice being suffered
should be more than a hypothetical possibility; there must have been a
real and significant risk”.

 

The Council considers that the prejudice to the effective conduct of
public affairs could refer to an adverse effect on a public authority’s
ability to offer an effective public service or to meet its wider
objectives due to the potential disruption caused by the disclosure and/or
the diversion of resources in managing the impact of disclosure.

 

Inhibiting the ability of officials to freely and frankly express their
views on an issue of consequence to the provision of public services and
to the economy more widely, would effectively curtail the authority’s
ability to make fully informed decisions. It is our reasonable opinion
that prejudice or inhibition would, or would be likely to occur. 
Furthermore, given the scale of the negotiations, a chilling effect on
free and frank discussions is highly likely to considerably affect the
rigour with which ongoing and future deliberations were conducted given
that the request was submitted at a crucial period when officials very
much needed to have a safe space to calmly and carefully consider the
impact of such negotiations.

 

Having considered these factors it is the view of the Monitoring Officer
that Section 36 is engaged and that the public interest in witholding the
information outweighs that of disclosure.

 

If you have any queries regarding your request for information then please
don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your
request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision,
you should write to: Information Governance Manager, Information
Governance, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, G Floor, Town Hall,
Blackburn, Lancashire, BB1 7DY or email
[1][Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council request email]

 

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply
directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the
ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints
procedure provided by the Council. The Information Commissioner can be
contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water
Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF. 

 

Please find attached our 'have your say' feedback policy. 

 

Kind Regards,

 

Information Governance

Email: [2][Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council request email]

Tel: 01254 585852

 

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