agendas and minutes of Leaders Board meetings

ScarletPimpernel 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 refused by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please could you supply the agendas and minutes for the Leaders Board meetings for the last twelve months. For the purposes of clarity, this request is being made on the 13th November 2013, so this is for the period 14th November 2012 to the 13th November 2013.

In order to help you direct your enquiries about this to the correct department, I point out that the Chief Executive has a role in the Leader's Board.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

John Brace

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

 

Dear Mr. Brace,

With regard to your request for information below, please see Council’s
response below.  

 

As the qualified person, I consider that the information you are seeking
within your enquiry is exempt under Section 36 (2) (b) (ii) of The Freedom
of Information Act 2000.  Further information on this exemption is below:-

 

36 (2) 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,
inhibit –

                                    (ii) the free and frank exchange of
views for the purpose of deliberation.

 

As the qualified person I am required to give a reasonable opinion about
the likelihood of inhibition under Section 36 (2)(b) (ii).

I consider that if the requested information were disclosed it would be
likely to inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of
deliberation.   In reaching this conclusion I have had regard to the
guidance issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office - Prejudice to
the effective conduct of public affairs (section 36 ) Version 2.

 

It is my reasonable opinion that if the requested information was
disclosed, that this would be likely to inhibit the free and frank
exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation.  Members of the Board
would be reluctant to participate in such a free and frank exchange of
views ,if they knew that their responses would be attributed to individual
members, and would restrain or suppress the freedom with which opinions
were expressed . The exchange of views was being given as part of a
process of deliberation, concerning important issues to the Council.

I consider there would be likely to be a “chilling effect” and that the
loss of candour and frankness would damage the quality of deliberation and
lead to poorer decision making in respect of the issues under
deliberation.

 

I consider that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs
the public interest in disclosure, because disclosure would make it less
likely that individual Board members would participate in giving their
free and frank exchange of views, if they knew such views would be made
available in a form which would identify them to a member of the public.

 

I also had regard to public interest factors in favour of disclosure, such
as transparency in respect of the views contributing to the deliberation
process, but considered that these were outweighed by the “chilling effect
“ consequences of suppressing the free and frank exchange of views. As the
authorised person, I am satisfied that the balance of the public interest
test favours withholding the information requested.

 

I also consider that your request for information is exempt information
under Section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act in that you are
asking for information which would enable you to identify an individual,
i.e. personal data, in respect of which you are not the data subject.

 

 I consider that the disclosure of the requested information would
contravene the first data protection principle, that personal data shall
be processed fairly and lawfully, and shall not be processed unless at
least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act 1998
is met.

 

I do not consider that any of the conditions in Schedule 2 would be met
and particularly Condition 6 of Schedule 2 in that the processing would be
unwarranted by reason of prejudice to the rights and freedoms or
legitimate interests of the data subject who could be identified from your
request and I do not consider that such processing would be necessary for
the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by yourself as a third party.
I do not consider that it would be fair to identify members, who completed
the questionnaire on the basis that comments would not be attributed to
individuals. This is an absolute exemption and not subject to the public
interest test.

 

I am therefore refusing your request for information under Section 17 (1)
of Freedom of Information Act 2000, relying on the exemption contained in
Sections 36 and 40 (2) of the Act. You have the right to ask for an
internal review in respect of the refusal of your request for information.
This should be addressed to the Information Manager, Legal and Member
Services, Town Hall, Brighton Street, Wallasey, CH44 8ED, email
[email address]

 

If you are dissatisfied with this response to your request for
information, you have the right to complain to the Information
Commissioner. The address is the Information Commissioner’s Office,

Wycliffe House,

Water Lane,

Wilmslow,

Cheshire SK9 5AF

[1]www.ico.gov.uk

 

Your sincerely and sent on behalf of the Qualified Officer

 

Surjit Tour

Head of Legal & Member Services and Monitoring Officer

Department of Transformation and Resources

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Town Hall

Brighton Street

Wallasey

Wirral

CH44 8ED

 

Tel:  0151 691 8569

Fax: 0151 691 8482

Email: [2][email address]

 

Visit our website: [3]www.wirral.gov.uk

 

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.

 

 

 

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Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'agendas and minutes of Leaders Board meetings'.

My request was made on the 13th November 2013 for agendas and minutes of the Leaders Board meetings for the period 14th November 2012 to 13th November 2013.

This request was refused on the 28th November 2013 as Wirral Council considered it exempt under s.36 (2)(b)(ii) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

As quoted in the legislation provided in the response to my request, this opinion has to be given by a "qualified person". For the purposes of this exemption in an English local authority only the Chief Executive and the Monitoring Officer are qualified persons.

The response given to the request states "Your sincerely and sent on behalf of the Qualified Officer

Surjit Tour"

Although Surjit Tour is the Monitoring Officer and a qualified person under the legislation, as this opinion is sent "on behalf of the Qualified Officer" is it unclear whether this opinion is the opinion of Surjit Tour himself or someone else acting on his behalf (who is not the qualified person).

Therefore the first ground for this internal review is that is in unclear whether the opinion is of the qualified person or an opinion of someone who is not the qualified person acting on the qualified person's behalf.

The second ground for this internal review is that the reason given for withholding information would only apply to the minutes of the meetings and that this request was for agendas and minutes. Agendas would not contain the views given as the reason for the exemption.

Thirdly, the members of the Leaders Board are the leaders of Labour Group, Conservative Group and Lib Dem Group on Wirral Council (Cllr Phil Davies, Cllr Jeff Green and Cllr Phil Gilchrist).

These three are politicians, all three often express their opinion at public meetings and in the press on a variety of issues. Based (in part on whether they agree) the public then express their opinion most years by voting (or not voting) for them as individuals or their respective political parties. There is therefore a public interest in the public knowing their stated positions on matters involving Wirral Council in advance of casting a vote. This is a public interest argument in favour of disclosure that wasn't considered.

It is clear from references made to the Leaders Board at public meetings that decisions are made at these meetings (for example the decision to consult with ward councillors over the Hoylake Golf Resort proposals) that the individual members of the Leaders Board do not consider there to be a "chilling effect" by stating in public decisions that the Leaders Board have made.

Your second reason for refusal (s. 40(2) ) states that providing the minutes would allow individuals to be identified. I presume these individuals referred to are the members of the Leaders Board (if so the previous arguments about disclosure apply) with there being strong public interest arguments for disclosure.

If they are not the individuals who make up the Leaders Board, but individual officers providing advice to the Leaders Board then the minutes could be supplied with the names (or job descriptions) of these officers redacted.

You state "I do not consider that it would be fair to identify members, who completed the questionnaire on the basis that comments would not be attributed to
individuals."

I am not sure what comments supplied in response to a questionnaire has to do with the agenda and minutes of the Leaders Board. However to be clear I am not asking for comments made in response to a questionnaire to be ascribed to individual councillors and am happy to receive the information requested as part of this Freedom of Information request with the names of who made comments in response to a questionnaire redacted if they were provided on the basis of anonymity.

Responses to a questionnaire attributed to individual councillors I assume is only one item on one agenda of one Leaders Board meeting and not a reason that applies to a year of meeting agendas and minutes.

Finally prior to the Leaders Board being created in the recent past the Council's Corporate Governance Committee comprised the Leaders and a number of Cabinet Members. This committee met in public, its agendas and minutes were published on the Council's website and any member of the public could attend its public meetings if they so wished to hear the views expressed at it.

Therefore if the Council could do this, which also involved the three party leaders with (to my memory) no accusations by anyone (whether councillors or officers) of a "chilling effect" on views expressed during its meetings why is the Leaders Board any different?

I look forward to reading your internal review of my request with interest.

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

Yours faithfully,

John Brace

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Good Afternoon,

With regard to your request for an Internal Review, for request entitled
“Agendas and Minutes of Leaders Board meetings”; please see the attached
Internal Review from the Chief Executive of Wirral Council – Graham
Burgess.

Kind Regards

Jane Corrin

Information and Central Services Manager

 

Transformation and Resources

Information and Central Services

Wallasey Town Hall

Brighton Street

Wallasey

Wirral

Merseyside

CH44 8ED

[1][email address]

 

 

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