Emails between WSCC and Parish council Chairman

Roedd y cais yn llwyddiannus.

Dear West Sussex County Council,

It has come to my attention that there maybe information within Emails and letters passed between WSCC Officers and a Parish Council Chairman that may present inaccurate information about a local Business and the services it provides.

This inaccurate information may of partly formed the basis for a funding bid for just under £7M from WSCC to BDUK as run by the DCMS with respect to funding Broadband "not spots" in the county.

We believe this information may of been contributory to the seemingly intentional suppression of the existence of the services of the Local Business in order to circumvent State Aid rules with relation to public funding.

This by falsely claiming market failure and refusing to enter into dialogue with the existing local business despite many requests from them.

As this information is between public servants and relates to significant public funds and possible personal and commercial defamation then i believe it is in the public interest to have it revealed and held open to question.

As one WSCC officer is also heavily involved with the Councils I.T. and Data management then I will need some assurances that this request will not result in the inadvertent loss or alteration of your archived email records relating to this request or future requests due to potential conflicts of interest.

The Email conversations we are primarily looking for are from Jan 2010 to the end of May 2011. The month of the WSCC Broadband Summit.

The Emails will relate to Broadband and may contain any of the Keywords - "Kijoma" "bill lewis" "bill" "broadband" "BT" "exchange" as a reference.

The WSCC Officers - Lionel Barnard and Mike Hicks
The Council Chairman - Mr Gordon Owen - Sutton Parish Council

If you are unable to provide the requested information then clearly state the reasons for refusal and the appeal process.

Yours faithfully,

Bill Lewis

West Sussex County Council

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr Lewis,

Your email dated 24th April and sent to the Authority's FOI inbox has been
forwarded to me.

In essence you have requested  "Emails and letters between WSCC Officers,
Lionel Barnard and Mike Hicks and Mr Gordon Owen of Sutton Parish Council
between January 2010 and the end of May 2011 which relate to Broadband and
may contain any of the keywords - "Kijoma" "bill lewis" "bill" "broadband"
"BT" "exchange".  You also state that the emails "may contain inaccurate
information and possibly personal and commercial defamation"

This request will be dealt with under two different information regimes.
Where the emails etc contain personal data relating to you, the request
must as a matter of law be dealt with as a Subject Access Request under
the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.  As such, there are a few
formalities which I will require you to complete before this part of your
request can be proceed further:
1.  Please complete and return the attached Subject Access Request Form
2.  Please provide a cheque in the sum of £10 made payable to West Sussex
County Council in respect of the fee payable.  
2.  Please provide two pieces of documentary proof of identity, one of
which should be photographic.

Where however the emails etc you have requested relate to information
solely in respect to the company (Kijomo), this element of your request
must be processed under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act
2000.  

The time for complying with the FOI element of this request is 23rd May.  

I look forward to receiving the above documentation.

Your sincerely,

Linda Spanner

+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| [1]Linda Spanner | Solicitor, [2]West Sussex County Council | |
| Location: Room 208, 2nd Floor, County Hall, Chichester, PO19 1RQ |
| Internal: 77949 | External: (01243) 777949 | E-mail: |
| [3][email address] |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+

P Save the environment - think before you print.
--
This e-mail and any attachments are confidential and intended solely for
the persons addressed. If it has come to you in error please reply to
advise us but you should not read it, copy it, show it to anyone else nor
make any other use of its content.   West Sussex County Council takes
steps to ensure e-mails and attachments are virus-free but you should
carry out your own checks before opening any attachment.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:linda spanner/CS/WSCC
2. http://www.westsussex.gov.uk/
3. mailto:[email address]

Dear West Sussex County Council (Linda Spanner),

Thank you for your prompt and concise reply.

Your summary or the request appears correct apart from the company name, Kijoma (not Kijomo) , thank you.

I will raise the DPA paperwork and return that to the council in due course.

I expect to hear a response to the FOI request as stated on or before the 23rd of May.

Yours faithfully,

Bill Lewis

West Sussex County Council

6 Atodiad

Dear Mr Lewis,

I write further to my email dated 25th April.

I note that I have not received back from you a Subject Access Request
under the Data Protection Act, however I understand that there are no
emails and letters between WSCC Officers, Lionel Barnard and Mike Hicks
and Mr Gordon Owen of Sutton Parish Council between January 2010 and the
end of May 2011 which mention you by name.

In relation to the element of your request that was processed under the
Freedom of Information Act, please find attached as individual attachments
copies of emails which I believe match the description of your request.  I
am advised that there are no letters which match the description of your
request.

You will note that some text on the emails has been redacted as I have
applied the personal data exemption under Section 40 of the FOI to remove
the personal data of third parties.  

I have also applied an exemption under Section 36(2)((i) and (ii) FOI on
the basis that in the reasonable opinion of a qualified person, disclosure
of the information would be likely to inhibit the free and frank provision
of advice and views for the purposes of deliberation. In particular
consideration has been given to the fact that the data is part of an
exchange within an on-going dialogue between the County Council and
individuals and community representatives about the scope and quality of
broadband provision in the county in preparation for a critical service
procurement. Through this dialogue the Council has received subjective and
qualitative data (including service downtime, reliability, customer
service quality etc.) which individuals and community representatives feel
is important to fully and freely describe their often personal experience
of current broadband provision.

 In applying this exemption I have had regard to the public interest test.
 I have taken into account the public interest in disclosing the
information as it supports openness, transparency and accountability.
 However, I am satisfied that the public interest in withholding the
information outweighs the public interest in disclosing it.  It is vital
within a public authority that free and frank ideas, opinions and views
are able to be openly exchanged without fear of disclosure.   Without the
ability to have those open exchanges a public authority would fetter its
ability to consider all relevant information and to make fair and
reasonable decisions which are necessary to improve the services to the
public and to achieve the greatest benefits for community.
 
If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you may
wish to ask for a review of our decision under our complaints procedure,
or the complaints section via our website.

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 our complaints
procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:  

The Information Commissioner's Office,
Wycliffe House,
Water Lane,
Wilmslow,
Cheshire
 SK9 5AF.  

Yours sincerely,

Linda Spanner

+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| [1]Linda Spanner | Solicitor, [2]West Sussex County Council | |
| Location: Room 208, 2nd Floor, County Hall, Chichester, PO19 1RQ |
| Internal: 77949 | External: (01243) 777949 | E-mail: |
| [3][email address] |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+

P Save the environment - think before you print.
--
This e-mail and any attachments are confidential and intended solely for
the persons addressed. If it has come to you in error please reply to
advise us but you should not read it, copy it, show it to anyone else nor
make any other use of its content.   West Sussex County Council takes
steps to ensure e-mails and attachments are virus-free but you should
carry out your own checks before opening any attachment.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:linda spanner/CS/WSCC
2. http://www.westsussex.gov.uk/
3. mailto:[email address]

Dear West Sussex County Council,

Thank you for your response. The content of the Emails does correlate with the information i have been provided by a third party.

With reference to this paragraph:-

I have also applied an exemption under Section 36(2)((i) and (ii) FOI on the basis that in the reasonable opinion of a qualified person, disclosure
of the information would be likely to inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and views for the purposes of deliberation. In particular
consideration has been given to the fact that the data is part of an exchange within an on-going dialogue between the County Council and individuals and community representatives about the scope and quality of broadband provision in the county in preparation for a critical service procurement. Through this dialogue the Council has received subjective and
qualitative data (including service downtime, reliability, customer service quality etc.) which individuals and community representatives feel
is important to fully and freely describe their often personal experience of current broadband provision.

You make reference to quality, downtime and reliability and also state that the reasons for withholding this information is because the views of the councillors/community were important " in preparation for a critical service procurement."

This is the very reason for asking for this information. This procurement involves public money and as such "personal" views that may affect the outcome of decisions at WSCC or further up the chain must be made transparent to the public who provide this funding via their taxes etc..

As Mr Owen in his role as Parish Council Chairman is not and has never been a customer of the incumbent Wireless service due to his own choice then any statements made about the quality of service are difficult for us to see as Subjective.

There are many gross inaccuracies in the dialogue between the officers and a clear bias by the Chairman of the Parish Council towards one particular commercial supplier of Broadband services. A supplier who has refused to supply their service due to commercial reasons.

Can you advise what is the procedure for providing corrective information to add to the official record please?

At present i assume we can respond to the incorrect claims made in these emails via the FoI system and your legal department prior to considering any legal recourse here?

From this there is the matter of making these corrections public and accessible to the businesses/residents of the related parish as well as the general public via an official statement from WSCC and the current Parish Council Chairman.

Yours faithfully,

Bill Lewis

Dear West Sussex County Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of West Sussex County Council's handling of my FOI request 'Emails between WSCC and Parish council Chairman'.

The council refused to provide the emails without blanking out key statements. One argument given that it was not in the public interest and may affect a considerable procurement process (i assume the £6.2M received from BDUK that may of been less had the true broadband situation in the county been honestly reported when applying for this state aid).

I have the section of text that was deleted and have incorporated it into a full response to the relevant email from the Chairman of Sutton PC.

I believe this section was withheld from public view by WSCC in order to protect itself and/or the Sutton PC chairman from legal action for corporate defamation and to protect the actions or inactions of WSCC officers. I cannot see how it related in any way to the reasons given by the WSCC response.

My Written response refutes all the claims made by the Sutton PC chairman in it. If the evidence asked for to back up his claims is not provided and we do not receive a full written apology and retraction then we will pass this information on to legal counsel.

We will send this to Mr Owen directly. This however does not relieve WSCC of responsibility as WSCC have demonstrated they followed this parish councillors advice as an "expert" and even invited him to talk at the Broadband Summit in 2011 where he was allowed to repeat the untrue statements he mentions in his email to WSCC without any question and in front of a considerable and influential audience.

This defamatory output measurably damaged Kijoma's reputation.

I also do not believe the council have the right to withhold information purely to protect it or any councillor from legal action as a result of what they write or say during the course of their public duties.

Nor has it the right to refuse information if it considers it may undermine a state aid funding bid or reveal information that may call into question the following of procedure, or lack of, when applying for public money within the state aid rule set.

If you wish to meet to discuss any of these matters then advise and we will attend.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/em...

Yours faithfully,

Bill Lewis

West Sussex County Council

Dear Mr Lewis,

Thank you for your email. I have passed this matter for review as
requested.

Yours sincerely,

Dave Loveman
Customer Relations Team Manager

+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| [1]Freedom Of Information | , [2]West Sussex County Council | |
| Location: County Hall, Chichester PO19 1RQ |
| Internal:  | External:  | E-mail: [3][email address] |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+

Bill Lewis To FOI requests at West
<[FOI #114614 email]> Sussex County Council
<[West Sussex County Council request email]>
29/05/2012 18:14 cc
Subject Internal review of
Freedom of Information
request - Emails
between WSCC and Parish
council Chairman

     Dear West Sussex County Council,
   
    Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
    Information reviews.
   
    I am writing to request an internal review of West Sussex County
    Council's handling of my FOI request 'Emails between WSCC and
    Parish council Chairman'.
   
    The council refused to provide the emails without blanking out key
    statements. One argument given that it was not in the public
    interest and may affect a considerable procurement process (i
    assume the £6.2M received from BDUK that may of been less had the
    true broadband situation in the county been honestly reported when
    applying for this state aid).
   
    I have the section of text that was deleted and have incorporated
    it into a full response to the relevant email from the Chairman of
    Sutton PC.
   
    I believe this section was withheld from public view by WSCC in
    order to protect itself and/or the Sutton PC chairman from legal
    action for corporate defamation and to protect the actions or
    inactions of WSCC officers. I cannot see how it related in any way
    to the reasons given by the WSCC response.
   
    My Written response refutes all the claims made by the Sutton PC
    chairman in it. If the evidence asked for to back up his claims is
    not provided and we do not receive a full written apology and
    retraction then we will pass this information on to legal counsel.
   
    We will send this to Mr Owen directly. This however does not
    relieve WSCC of responsibility as WSCC have demonstrated they
    followed this parish councillors advice as an "expert" and even
    invited him to talk at the Broadband Summit in 2011 where he was
    allowed to repeat the untrue statements he mentions in his email to
    WSCC without any question and in front of a considerable and
    influential audience.
   
    This defamatory output measurably damaged Kijoma's reputation.
   
    I also do not believe the council have the right to withhold
    information purely to protect it or any councillor from legal
    action as a result of what they write or say during the course of
    their public duties.
   
    Nor has it the right to refuse information if it considers it may
    undermine a state aid funding bid or reveal information that may
    call into question the following of procedure, or lack of, when
    applying for public money within the state aid rule set.
   
    If you wish to meet to discuss any of these matters then advise and
    we will attend.
   
    A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
    available on the Internet at this address:
    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/em...
   
    Yours faithfully,
   
    Bill Lewis
   
   
   
    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    Please use this email address for all replies to this request:
    [FOI #114614 email]
   
    Disclaimer: This message and any reply that you make will be
    published on the internet. Our privacy and copyright policies:
    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/offic...
   
    If you find this service useful as an FOI officer, please ask your
    web manager to link to us from your organisation's FOI page.
   
   

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Tony Kershaw,

 

              

 

Dear Mr Lewis

 

I refer to your e-mail to the County Council of 29^th May in which you
request an internal review by the County Council of its response to your
Freedom of Information Act request submitted on 24^th April 2012 and
relating to e-mails between the County Council and a named individual.

 

The County Council’s response is dated 22^nd May.  A small number of
references in certain e-mails had been redacted and the reasons for that
redaction was explained by reference to sections 40 and 36(2) of the
Freedom of Information Act.  You have asked for the application of those
exemptions to be reviewed.  In doing so I have considered the full
exchange between you and officers of the County Council in relation to the
Freedom of Information request and I have also looked at the full text of
the e-mails which were produced in response to your request.

 

Having considered the information, the context in which the e-mails were
produced and the application and rationale for the application of the two
exemptions I conclude that there is no basis for changing the response of
the County Council or for reconsidering the application of the
exemptions. 

 

I take it from your review request that you have no objection to the
removal of personal data under section 40 of the Freedom of Information
Act.  Your request for a review appears to relate to a specific extract
from one e-mail in relation to which the County Council applied an
exemption under section 36(2)(b)(i)&(ii).  That exemption applies where,
in the view of a qualified person within the Authority, the disclosure of
the information would, or would be likely to, inhibit the free and frank
provision of advice or the free and frank exchange of views for the
purposes of deliberation. 

 

As the exemption provided by section 36(2)(b) is not an absolute exemption
the County Council is required, in addition, to apply the public interest
test whereby the Authority must be satisfied that, on balance, it is in
the public interest for the information to be withheld.

 

In your review you indicate that the application of the exemption was
based upon a consideration that it “may affect a considerable procurement
process”.  This however is not the basis of the application of the
exemption and played no part in the response to your Freedom of
Information Act request.  You also suggest that the text was withheld from
public view in order to protect from an action for corporate defamation
and to protect actions or inactions by County Council officers.  I can
find no basis whatsoever for such claims.  Prior to seeing the content of
your e-mail of 29^th May the County Council could not have had in
contemplation any consideration being given by you to an action for
corporate defamation nor indeed would the content of e-mail in itself
provide a basis for assuming such a claim was being contemplated.  It
can therefore have played no part in the application of the exemption
referred to above. Rather the account of the exemption’s application
focussed correctly on the need to maintain a viable consultation process
and to consider the interests of those wishing to engage in such a
process.

 

I must conclude therefore that you are mistaken in your view that the
County Council has used the exemption in order to protect individuals or
the Council from legal action.  Your complaint relates to a statement
which has been made by a third party, not by an officer or a councillor. 
You make no complaint about, nor do you make any reference in your
request for a review to, any actions taken by officers or members of the
County Council in relation to the e-mail content. The County Council had
no reason for assuming that any action it had taken could lead to a
complaint or threat of legal action.  There is no basis therefore upon
which any claim can be made that the application of the exemption was
motivated in this way. 

 

You also suggest in your e-mail that the County Council has no right to
refuse the disclosure of information if it considers it may undermine a
state funding bid or reveal information that may call into question a
procedure or application for public money.  Again I can find no basis for
such a claim as it formed no part of the application of the exemption
referred to above. Having seen the text to which you object I find the
suggestion groundless.

 

The County Council embarked upon a process for obtaining the views and
advice of individuals and organisations to help inform a process for a
future bid relating to broadband provision.  It is inherent in the success
of such a process that those individuals and organisations should feel
free to provide advice and express views fully and freely.  If it was
expected that all information supplied would be published then the
willingness of those individuals and organisations to express views or
give advice is likely to have been inhibited.  I am satisfied that this
was the basis upon which the relevant text was redacted and I am also
satisfied that this was a proper and considered application of the
exemption under section 36(2)(b).  The rationale for the application of
the test is very clearly set out in the text of the response dated 22^nd
May and I see no need to repeat that rationale here as nothing in your
request for a review is directed at challenging that rationale.

 

I have also looked again at the application of the public interest test
which must be considered once the exemption is triggered. I am satisfied
that the value of maintaining a free dialogue with individuals and
organisations in this kind of exercise is a valid consideration of the
public interest. I can find no real basis for the public interest being
served by the publication of all views and comments expressed. They were
not sought or given with this expectation. The information received
amounts to nothing more than an expression of views to assist deliberation
and does not bind or determine decisions which the County Council may wish
to take in future. Your request has not identified any new considerations
which could provide a basis for concluding that the public interest is
prejudiced by this approach.

 

I understand from your e-mail of 29^th May that you have in any event seen
the information which has been redacted from the e-mail and your request
for this review is therefore somewhat academic in relation to the specific
action you may be contemplating.  I can therefore not see that there is
any further consideration that needs to be given to the matter.  Should
you be unhappy with the outcome of this review then you may pursue the
matter with the Information Commissioner who may be contacted at:

 

The Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Tony Kershaw

 

 

                Tony Kershaw:  Head of Legal and Democratic Services  West
Sussex County Council: Tel 01243 3(82701)

                              Rm 146 West Wing County Hall Chichester PO19
1RQ:  [1][email address]

 

Think sustainably. Do you have to print? Can you double side? Do you need
colour?

 

This e-mail and any attachments are confidential and intended solely for
the persons addressed. If it has come to you in error please reply to
advise us but you should not read it, copy it, show it to anyone else nor
make any other use of its content. West Sussex County Council takes steps
to ensure e-mails and attachments are virus-free but you should carry out
your own checks before opening any attachment.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Dear Tony Kershaw,

Thank you for your long and expected response.

You are correct in that the redacted text with which i refer was not from a WSCC officer. It was in fact as stated from a Parish council Chairman in communication with your officers in an official capacity.

The reason for requesting the email is to confirm the information I had received was correct before pursuing it.

I have published a response to the emails and as this system does not seem to allow me to attach it, the PDF is here :-

https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BxeyTO0...

This particular Parish council chairman has been clearly evidenced as being used as an "expert" reference with respect to Broadband provision in West Sussex by WSCC.

His role as an ex Cable and Wireless employee seems to be the basis of this.

His appearance behind the desk at the Broadband Summit in 2011 alongside Bill Murphy from BT, even though actual current Cable and Wireless staff were in the audience, shows the level of respect WSCC appears to have for this persons views.

At this summit he was allowed to regurgitate his biased personal views, without question, to the detriment of the service available to him and as used by the community he represented, for 7+ years. A service he refuses to use.

I have copies of Website content, emails from WSCC in response to mine and others which clearly shows the unfounded and unsubstantiated claims made by the Parish Councillor were taken on board by WSCC staff and used to berate or dismiss our business/solution.

This is why i raised the issue with WSCC. The Parish councillors "expert" views , as taken on by WSCC, are damaging our business and threatening the service provided to communities from us.

I see that unlike some other Local Authorities you have opted out of including "non BDUK framework" solutions from your plan. This means you have excluded technology and businesses like ours from your plan, despite having been clearly informed of the significant coverage and benefit the service currently provides.

This in itself is not a great issue as I am sure that after all the public money has been spent on the BDUK plan, there will be plenty of areas, ironically those the original plan were meant to cover, who will still need a quality broadband service from us.

The issue as I see it is the intentional defamation of a business/technology/operator in the county. With the seemingly sole purpose of declaring areas as "not spots" that are actually fulfilled with a commercial service which we can declare is "the fastest of any village in the county". You are welcome to contest this claim of course, we have always welcomed inspection of our service.

SO in my view, the ball is in WSCC's court to provide some firm evidence of the misinformation they have been provided, or like the Parish Councillor, provide a full public retraction of the statements made.

Kijoma is a Business and tax payer based in West Sussex who provides services to over 1000 other tax paying Businesses and Homes in the county.

WSCC has a duty to be open and accountable. If we do not receive a response to this then we can assume your statement that there is nothing else to cover stands.

We will then take this issue up via other channels.

Yours sincerely,

Bill Lewis

Tony Kershaw,

Dear Mr Lewis

I have read with care your email of 26th June in reply to the review of the County Council's response your earlier FoI request.

I think that there is really nothing to be added to my full response to the issues you raised. Your principal concern relates to comments made by a third person to the County Council in response to the County Council's invitation for information and representations about a potential project. The fact that you consider the views of that person to be defamatory is noted. Nothing the County Council has done indicates any reliance on or particular credence given to any information supplied in response to the consultation exercise. Your note states that you take issue with this person's views "as taken on by WSCC" but nothing has been "taken on" simply by virtue of this or any other information having been received. The County Council is not in any position at this point to take decisions about the broadband service planning which was the subject of the consultation exercise.

Contrary to your assertion it is not for the County Council to provide evidence of misinformation provided to it or to retract statements made to it as part of this consultation process.

If you consider that your business has been harmed in some way by the expression of personal views in this context then you will no doubt seek further advice. I do not however see any basis for the County Council to take any action and I am accordingly treating this matter as closed.

Sincerely

Tony Kershaw

Tony Kershaw: Head of Legal and Democratic Services West Sussex County Council: Tel 01243 3(82701)
Rm 146 West Wing County Hall Chichester PO19 1RQ: [email address]

This e-mail and any attachments are confidential and intended solely for the persons addressed. If it has come to you in error please reply to advise us but you should not read it, copy it, show it to anyone else nor make any other use of its content. West Sussex County Council takes steps to ensure e-mails and attachments are virus-free but you should carry out your own checks before opening any attachment.