Actual and proposed expenditure on the Hoylake Golf Resort proposal

Michael Dixon made this Freedom of Information request to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

In correspondence of January 2016 between Margaret Greenwood, MP, and David Ball, Head of Regeneration and Planning, concerning the Proposed Hoylake Housing Estate, Hotel and Spa (with Golf) Resort, the figure of £237,012 was given as the budget for specialist procurement, cost modelling, golfing and technical consultant support. The figure was given as expenditure to date, suggesting that this amount has already been expended and that the eventual cost of bringing forward a full proposal will be considerably higher.

The Council must have an estimate for its future annual expenditure and its total estimated expenditure, since there cannot be an unlimited budget for these or any other purposes. Equally, there must be an agreement on the split of this estimated expenditure between Council and the Developer, unless all expenditure will be by the Council.

Please supply these estimates, as the public has a right to know how its money is being spent and is planned to be spent, especially on such a controversial proposal.

Yours faithfully,
Michael Dixon

Rossell Conner left an annotation ()

Hi Mike Dixon, don't suppose you know Edward Duggan, do you?

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Dixon,

 

I refer to your email dated 29 April, when you made the following request
for information :-

 

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

 

In correspondence of January 2016 between Margaret Greenwood, MP, and
David Ball, Head of Regeneration and Planning, concerning the Proposed
Hoylake Housing Estate, Hotel and Spa (with Golf) Resort, the figure of
£237,012 was given as the budget for specialist procurement, cost
modelling, golfing and technical consultant support.  The figure was given
as expenditure to date, suggesting that this amount has already been
expended and that the eventual cost of bringing forward a full proposal
will be considerably higher. 

 

The Council must have an estimate for its future annual expenditure and
its total estimated expenditure, since there cannot be an unlimited budget
for these or any other purposes.  Equally, there must be an agreement on
the split of this estimated expenditure between Council and the Developer,
unless all expenditure will be by the Council.

 

Please supply these estimates, as the public has a right to know how its
money is being spent and is planned to be spent, especially on such a
controversial proposal.

 

Yours faithfully

 

I consider that your request dated 29 April, should be dealt with under
The Environmental Information Regulations 2004, (EIR),rather than the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). That is because the information
you are seeking is environmental information as defined in Regulation 2
(1)(c) being measures or activities affecting the element of land, namely
the Proposed Hoylake Housing Estate, Hotel and Spa (with Golf) Resort. I
consider that the exception contained in Regulation 12 (4) (d)  of the EIR
applies to your request for information, namely, that the request relates
to material which is still in the course of completion, to unfinished
documents or to incomplete data. I have had regard to the Information
Commissioner’s Guidance “ Material in the course of completion, unfinished
documents and incomplete data (regulation 12 (4) (d) Version:1.1 20160523.

Public Interest test

The exceptions contained in Regulation 12 (4) (d) is  subject to the
public interest test. I have had regard to the ICO guidance, “ How
exceptions and the public interest test work in the Environmental
Information Regulations “, Version:1.1 20130305

 

Regulation 12 (4)(a)

Factors in favour of disclosure of the requested information

·         There is always a general public interest in disclosure,
deriving from the purpose of EIR

 

Factors in favour of maintaining the exception

·         The need for a safe space when material is still in the course
of completion

·         Disclosure of information contained in unfinished documents
could adversely affect the ability of the Council to finalise relevant
projects or work related to projects.

 

I consider in all the circumstances of the case that the public interest
in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing
the information

 

I am therefore refusing your request for information on the basis that the
exception contained in Regulation 12 (4)(d) of the EIR applies, namely
that that the request relates to material which is still in the course of
completion, to unfinished documents or to incomplete data.

You have the right under Regulation 11 (1) of the EIR to make
representations to the Council, if you consider that the Council has
failed to comply with a requirement of the Regulations in relation to your
request. Any representations should be addressed in the first instance to
Jane Corrin,Legal and Member Services, Town Hall, Brighton Street,
Wallasey, CH44 8ED, [1][email address].

You also have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner , but
would be expected to make representations first . The address is the
Information Commissioner’s Office,

Wycliffe House,

Water Lane,

Wilmslow,

Cheshire SK9 5AF

[2]www.ico.org.uk

 

Yours sincerely and sent on behalf of

Rosemary Lyon - Solicitor

Legal and Member Services

Transformation and Resources

 

 

 

 

[3]LGC Awards15_Winner_MIP

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.   You are free
to use it for your own purposes, including any non-commercial research you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may
involve licensing and the application of a charge

 

 

 

 

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.ico.org.uk/

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

I do not consider that your refusal to answer my request for information about the proposed budget for expenditure by the Council on preparing a proposal for a Golf Resort is reasonable under Environmental Information Regulations. Those quoted [regulation 12 (4) (d)] refer to material in the course of completion, unfinished documents and incomplete data, whereas I am not requesting material or documents; and the data requested is simply an estimate of expenditure which by definition must have been completed in budget planning.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Dixon

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Further to my reply to your refusal to release information, it is material to point out that, as I said in my original request, you have already provided a partial, and surprisingly exact, disclosure of expenditure to date (about January 2016) in answer to questions asked by our MP. It would seem that Regulation 12 (4) (d) of the EIR did not apply then; and should not do so now.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Dixon

ScarletPimpernel left an annotation ()

Correspondence from Wirral's MPs goes through different channels at Wirral Council to those that FOI or EIR requests do.

I think this is some of the proposed expenditure (at the time of 2013) estimated at £178,823.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDoc...

However as that's from 2013, some will be actual expenditure by now!

Michael Dixon left an annotation ()

ScarletPimpernel

Thank you for the link.

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Dixon

 

I write further to your emails of 19 and 21 June 2016 regarding the
Council’s response to your recent request for information, dealt with
under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs).

 

You have expressed dissatisfaction with the Council’s response to your
original request dated 31 May 2016.  Your correspondence has therefore
been treated as a request for an Internal Review.

 

In your email of 19 June you state; “I do not consider that your refusal
to answer my request for information about the proposed budget for
expenditure by the Council on preparing a proposal for a golf resort is
reasonable under the EIRs. Those quoted [regulation 12 (4)(d)] refer to
material in the course of completion, unfinished documents and incomplete
data, whereas I am not requesting material or documents; and the data
requested is simply an estimate of expenditure which by definition must
have been completed in budget planning”

 

As reviewing officer, I have considered the scope of your original
request, the Council’s response and all relevant legislation and guidance
issued by the Information Commissioner. Upon review, I am satisfied that
the exception contained in Regulation 12 (4) (d) was correctly applied and
I uphold that decision.

 

Regulation 12 (4) of the EIRs states that a public authority may refuse to
disclose information where the request relates to material which is still
in the course of completion; being unfinished documents or incomplete
data. The Hoylake Golf Course proposal is still in the course of wider
completion and project development work is still ongoing. No final
decisions have yet been taken.

 

The ICO guidance makes it clear that whilst a particular document or item
of correspondence may be finished, they may be part of material which is
still in the course of completion.  In this case, the information you seek
relates to material still in the course of completion because the Council
is still working on project development, competitive dialogue is
continuing and no budgetary decisions have been made.

 

I am satisfied that the budgetary information you request is part of
material which is still in the course of completion and as such, the
exception at Regulation 12 (4) (d) was correctly engaged in this case.

 

As Regulation 12 (4) (d) is subject to the public interest test, I am
required to consider the public interest factors in favour of both
disclosure and maintaining the exception.

 

Public Interest arguments in favour of disclosing the requested
information

·         The EIRs make it clear that there is a presumption in favour of
disclosure of environmental information. 

·         There is a generic public interest in accountability and
transparency as the project involves public expenditure and potential
public benefit.

Public Interest arguments in favour of maintaining the exception

·         The Council needs a “safe space” to be able to develop ideas and
reach decisions away from external interference. Premature disclosure of
incomplete data would compromise this safe space. 

·         Disclosure of information ahead of decisions being taken and
announcements being made would lead to misinterpretation of the
information or mislead the public into thinking decisions have been made. 
This would have negative implications for the citizens of Wirral.

 

Upon consideration of the facts of this case, I believe that the public
interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in
disclosing the information requested.

 

Budget planning for proposed projects such as this is dependent upon the
status of the project cycle and the information available to the Council
at any given time.   As such, there is no rigid budget agreed at a
pre-determined date in the financial year.

 

Until the ongoing project development work is completed, no budgetary
estimate is available. However, it is anticipated that during the next few
months a report will be ready for consideration by Cabinet.  At that
point, the information contained within that report will be made available
on the Council’s website.

 

If you are dissatisfied with the response contained within this Internal
Review, you have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner
(ICO) below:-. 

 

Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

[1]https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/

 

Telephone 0303 123 113

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Lynette Paterson

Senior Information Management Officer

Records and Information Management

Legal Services

Transformation and Resources

Wallasey Town Hall

Brighton Street
Wallasey
Wirral
CH44 8ED 

[2]Tel: 0151 691 8201

[3][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

 

[4]LGC Awards15_Winner_MIP

 

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.   You are free
to use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial research you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may
involve licensing and the application of a charge

 

 

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/
2. file:///tmp/Tel:0151
3. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

I do not accept your refusal to disclose information which should be so straightforwardly accessible and have appealed to The Information Commissioner’s Office.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Dixon

Lyon, Rosemary A., Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Dixon,

 

Case Reference Number FER0640624

 

I refer to your complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office. The
Council has revisited your request for information dated 29 April 2016,
and has decided to amend its response, as follows:-

 

I refer to your request for information dated 29 April, which was as
follows:-

 

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

 

In correspondence of January 2016 between Margaret Greenwood, MP, and
David Ball, Head of Regeneration and Planning, concerning the Proposed
Hoylake Housing Estate, Hotel and Spa (with Golf) Resort, the figure of
£237,012 was given as the budget for specialist procurement, cost
modelling, golfing and technical consultant support.  The figure was given
as expenditure to date, suggesting that this amount has already been
expended and that the eventual cost of bringing forward a full proposal
will be considerably higher. 

 

The Council must have an estimate for its future annual expenditure and
its total estimated expenditure, since there cannot be an unlimited budget
for these or any other purposes.  Equally, there must be an agreement on
the split of this estimated expenditure between Council and the Developer,
unless all expenditure will be by the Council.

 

Please supply these estimates, as the public has a right to know how its
money is being spent and is planned to be spent, especially on such a
controversial proposal.

 

Yours faithfully

 

I consider that your request should be dealt with under The Environmental
Information Regulations 2004, (EIR),rather than the Freedom of Information
Act 2000 (FOIA). That is because the information you are seeking is
environmental information as defined in Regulation 2 (1)(c) being measures
or activities affecting the element of land, namely the proposed Hoylake
Golf Resort. I enclose a copy of the report to Cabinet which was
originally due to be considered on 3 October 2016 and was considered on 7
November 2016. This report provides in Paragraph 4.2 details of the
estimated expenditure required to take the project forward, amounting in
total to £595,969.Paragraph 6 of the report also deals with the financial
implications in respect of the estimated expenditure. I consider that this
information supplies the estimates requested in your email of 29 April
2016. I have copied this amended response to the Information Commissioner.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Rosemary Lyon,

Solicitor,

Business Services,

Law and Governance

Town Hall,

Brighton Street

Wallasey

Wirral

CH44 8ED

 

 

 

show quoted sections

Dear Lyon, Rosemary A.,
Thank you for your response. I was well aware that information concerning new expenditure on the Golf Resort was made public in October. You will realise three things:

- Council's request for expenditure of £595,969 was only placed in the public domain because the Council had no alternative to disclosure, since it needed to request further expenditure of public money.
- the sum of £595,969 may or may not be the same as the estimate of future expenditure which must have existed in April, at the time of my request, or at any time subsequently.
- Council has not acknowledged that The Information Commissioner had upheld my appeal against both The Council's original refusal of disclosure and the internal review which upheld that refusal.
- information delayed is information withheld.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Dixon