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Cost incurred by Northumberland County Council for the Highthorn Inquiry

Ivor Rackham made this Freedom of Information request to Northumberland County Council

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Dear Northumberland County Council,

Please would you release the overall cost that Northumberland County Council incurred for the Public Inquiry into the proposed Highthorn Opencast Mine by The Banks Group and its subsidiary Banks Mining.

Please also release a summery breakdown of those costs, separating off staff time, solicitors' fees, administration costs, and any other major costs totalling over £5000.

Yours faithfully,

Ivor Rackham

Northumberland County Council

1 Attachment

Our Ref: 3763  

Dear Enquirer,

INFORMATION REQUEST

Thank you for your request for information which will be dealt with under
the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 / Environmental
Information Regulations 2004.

In some circumstances a fee may be payable and if that is the case, we
will let you know the likely charges before proceeding.

If you have any queries about this matter please contact us. Please
remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Kind regards

Information Governance Office
Northumberland County Council
County Hall
Morpeth
Northumberland
NE61 2EF

Tel: 0345 600 6400
Email: [Northumberland County Council request email]
Web: http://www.northumberland.gov.uk

Northumberland County Council

1 Attachment

Our Ref: 3763   

Dear Enquirer,

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST 

I refer to your for Freedom of Information request for details of overall
costs that NCC incurred for the Public Inquiry into the proposed Highthorn
Opencast Mine.

Right of Access 

Section 1(1) of the Act provides any person making a request for
information to a public authority is entitled. 

(a) to be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds
information of the description specified in the request (which Section
1(6) of the Act designates as the "duty to confirm or deny"), and 

(b) if that is the case, to have that information communicated to him. 

The right is to obtain access to the information itself and not to the
document or record which contains it. 

The Act creates a general right of access to information held by public
authorities subject to various exemptions. 

Duty to confirm or deny 

Northumberland County Council neither confirms nor denies whether it holds
the information you have requested. 

Exemptions 
Request:
Please would you release the overall cost that Northumberland County
Council incurred for the Public Inquiry into the proposed Highthorn
Opencast Mine by The Banks Group and its subsidiary Banks Mining.  Please
also release a summery breakdown of those costs, separating off staff
time, solicitors' fees, administration costs, and any other major costs
totalling over £5000. 
Response:
Having checked our records this data, the overall cost of the Highthorn
Public Inquiry, is not data we hold in terms of there was not a cumulative
spreadsheet kept for expenditure. It is not therefore possible to provide
an overall cost that Northumberland County Council incurred for the Public
Inquiry into the proposed Highthorn Opencast Mine by The Banks Group and
its subsidiary Banks Mining.
In terms of a summary breakdown of those costs separating off staff time,
solicitors' fees, administration costs, and any other major costs
totalling over £5000 the following exemptions apply:
The Freedom of Information Act sets out various exemptions to the right of
access. 
Without an overall cost of the amount incurred it is not possible to
provide a summary breakdown;
Expenses relating to external personnel (including Planning (AMEC),
Climate Change (SLR), Landscape (Stephenson Halliday) legal
representatives and Counsel) is not to be disclosed. This is exempt
disclosure under Section 40(2) (personal data; infringement of the First
Data Protection Principle) fees/salary (as a non-employee/external
representative) are exempted. Further, there is no Overriding Legitimate
Interest in disclosure. Separately, exemption under Section 43: disclosure
would prejudice commercial interests; Separately, exemption under section
41: Confidentiality;
Expenses relating to internal personnel is not to be disclosed. Exempt
disclosure under Section 40(2) (personal data; infringement of the First
Data Protection Principle): These expenses were (first) incurred by virtue
of employee-decision taking in the performance of their job, and as such,
are capable of amounting to 'personal data'. But, the protection is less
than in the case of a non-employee/external representative, and the
Overriding Interest Test is stronger (in the overall balance).

When considering a Fair Processing Notice (FPN) the Council do not collect
personal data specifically for the purpose of responding to such requests
(in this instance an FOI request). When applying the principle of a FPN a
breach of a FPN strengthens the case for this exemption applying /
Overriding Interest Test not applying.

Notice of Refusal 

Please treat this letter as a Notice of Refusal as regards the information
covered by the Section 40(2), Section 41 and Section 43 Exemptions. 

Advice and Assistance 

The County Council recognises its statutory duty to provide advice and
assistance under Section 16 of the Act. 

Subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, the Council
is seeking to be transparent and open in its response. 

Complaints 

If you are unhappy with the way your request for information has been
handled, you can request an internal review by writing within 2 months
from the date of this response to the Information Governance Office: 

Information Governance Office
Northumberland County Council
County Hall
Morpeth
NE61 2EF 

Email: [1][Northumberland County Council request email] 

Information Commissioner 

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request or complaint,
you have a right by Section 50 of the Act to apply to the Information
Commissioner for a decision as to whether your request has been dealt with
in accordance with the requirements of the Act at: 

The Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire 
SK9 5AF 
Tel: 01625 545 745 / Fax: 01625 524 510
Email: [2][email address

There is no charge for making an appeal. 

Yours sincerely 

FOI Coordinator -
Information Governance Office
Northumberland County Council
County Hall
Morpeth
Northumberland
NE61 2EF

Tel: 0345 600 6400
Email: [3][Northumberland County Council request email] 
Web: [4]http://www.northumberland.gov.uk 

References

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Dear Northumberland County Council,

Thank-you for your reply. As it is in the public interest for you to declare how much you used on the public inquiry I request an internal review of your decision.

Yours faithfully,

Ivor Rackham

Northumberland County Council

1 Attachment

Our Ref: 3763   

Dear Enquirer,

INTERNAL REVIEW OF FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST 

Thank you for your request for an internal review received 23.03.2018 into
the response to your Freedom of Information request received on 23.02.108.

A Senior Officer independent of the original response will review all
correspondence and write to you with our final response by 24.04.2018.

Kind regards

Information Governance Office
Northumberland County Council
County Hall
Morpeth
Northumberland
NE61 2EF

Tel: 0345 600 6400
Email: [Northumberland County Council request email]
Web: http://www.northumberland.gov.uk

Dear Northumberland County Council,
Further to my previous request for an internal inquiry, please note that I consider the exemptions under under Section 43: Disclosure, and Section 41: Confidentiality to be invalid.
Section 40(2) also does not apply to those to whom you contracted work as they are all limited companies and not private individuals.

The disclosure would not prejudice commercial interests as I am not requesting a breakdown of the individual invoiced charges by the various businesses to whom you subcontracted but an overall cost of their total services relating to the Highthorn Inquiry.
e.g.
Total legal fees:
Total Consultant Fees:
Total Staffing Costs:
Total other Major Expenses Over £5000:

The minor costs, e.g the travelling and meal expenses for a clerical assistant, I am not requesting.

This information is not confidential, I am not asking for details of their contracts nor which companies received the amounts.

I do understand that releasing the individual staff salary costs may be problematic regarding confidentiality. However, the rates of pay for employees of public bodies are publicly available. I am not asking for the names nor the grades of the staff, just the total staffing cost of the dozen or so officers involved with the Inquiry. That would not reveal individual rates of pay, but it would give an indication of total costs incurred by the tax-payer. That would be a simple matter of you listing those involves with their grades and salaries, multiply that by the number of hours spent on the inquiry and release just the total figure.

It is in the public interest for us to know how much of our tax was spent by the Council defending their decision.

Yours faithfully,

Ivor Rackham

FOI FOI, Northumberland County Council

Dear Mr Rackham,
We acknowledge receipt of your email below which we have forwarded to the
area which is dealing with the internal review for foi 3763.  
kind regards,
Julia

Information Governance Office

(t) 0345 600 6400

(e) [1][email address]

show quoted sections

Tony Gribbin, Northumberland County Council

Dear Mr Rackham
Please find attached the outcome of my review of the above FOI request
Yours sincerely
Tony Gribbin
--
Tony Gribbin
Neighbourhood Services Area Manager​
[1][IMG][2] FOI Review outcome 250424TG1 .docx (1).pdf

Northumberland County Council
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Blyth
NE24 5TF
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Website: [4]www.northumberland.gov.uk
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References

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