Expenses concerning sale of car park

The request was successful.

Dear Mr Tillman,

I am requesting information regarding the division of proceeds relating to the sale of a council owned car park, leased by Scarlets Regional Ltd, adjacent to Parc Y Scarlets, Llanelli.
I understand that the land was sold to Marstons Inns for the purchase price of £850,000.

The breakdown of the split of the proceeds includes various expenses deducted before the remainder was shared between the council, £200,000, and the club, £220,000. Those expenses were;

£51k Agents and architects
£76K compensation for long lease
£30k buyer finder's fee for Scarlets
£280k allowable expenses to pay for the costs of fitting out the Scarlets' shop and cafe/bar, 'The Red Room', in Llanelli Eastgate Development.

During a meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council in December 2013, council were told that the division was made on the advice of the District Valuer.

I am requesting;
a) a copy of the District Valuer's report,
b) any available meeting notes, minutes, internal and external emails relating directly to the above expenses.

Many thanks

Jacqui Thompson

FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Ms Thompson,

Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 18th January, 2014 and is being dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We are therefore required to provide you with a response within 20 working days, which will be on or before 14th February, 2014.

If we require any clarification or further details, we will contact you as soon as possible - if this is the case, then the timescale for response specified above may be subject to change.

In the meantime, if you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me, remembering to quote the reference number provided above in any communications.

Yours sincerely

John Tillman
Swyddog Gwybodaeth a Diogelu Data
Adran y Prif Weithredwr
Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin

Information & Data Protection Officer
Chief Executive's Department
Carmarthenshire County Council

Mewnol/Internal: 4127
Allanol/External: 01267 224127

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FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mrs Thompson,

Further to our email below, I am writing to you regarding your request.

I apologise for not raising this previously, however, at this late stage it has become apparent that the scope of part of your request is not entirely clear.

In particular, you ask for "any available meeting notes, minutes, internal and external emails relating directly to the above expenses."

We are unclear as to how we should interpret the phrase "relating directly" and would be grateful if you could explain precisely what this means.

For example, would any communication merely referring to these issues relate directly to them?

It is difficult at present to establish what information is relevant to your request and we therefore require you to be more specific in this regard.

Yours sincerely

John Tillman
Swyddog Gwybodaeth a Diogelu Data
Adran y Prif Weithredwr
Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin

Information & Data Protection Officer
Chief Executive's Department
Carmarthenshire County Council

Mewnol/Internal: 4127
Allanol/External: 01267 224127

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Dear Mr Tillman,

As your request for clarification is only one day from the 20 day limit, I'd be grateful if you provide the information as soon as possible rather than within another 20 day limit.

'Relating directly' does indeed mean any communication referring directly to the expenses concerning the sale of the car park. As this request is limited to one particular sale I would expect this information to be readily available.

If you require further clarification or believe it would be helpful for me to refocus my request please let me know as soon as possible.

Thank you,
Jacqui Thompson

FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mrs Thompson,

Thank you for your response.

To be clear, it would now appear that you require any communications discussing these expenses before the sale was concluded.

If this is incorrect, please let me know.

Yours sincerely

John Tillman
Swyddog Gwybodaeth a Diogelu Data
Adran y Prif Weithredwr
Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin

Information & Data Protection Officer
Chief Executive's Department
Carmarthenshire County Council

Mewnol/Internal: 4127
Allanol/External: 01267 224127

show quoted sections

Dear Mr Tillman,

You are correct.

Yours sincerely,

Jacqui Thompson

FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mrs Thompson,

I refer to your request for information, which was received on 18th January, 2014 and has been dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Please accept our apologies for the delay in providing this response.

The specific information you requested was as follows:

" I am requesting information regarding the division of proceeds relating to the sale of a council owned car park, leased by Scarlets Regional Ltd, adjacent to Parc Y Scarlets, Llanelli.

I understand that the land was sold to Marstons Inns for the purchase price of £850,000.

The breakdown of the split of the proceeds includes various expenses deducted before the remainder was shared between the council, £200,000, and the club, £220,000. Those expenses were;

£51k Agents and architects
£76K compensation for long lease
£30k buyer finder's fee for Scarlets
£280k allowable expenses to pay for the costs of fitting out the Scarlets' shop and cafe/bar, 'The Red Room', in Llanelli Eastgate Development.

During a meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council in December 2013, council were told that the division was made on the advice of the District Valuer.

I am requesting;
a) a copy of the District Valuer's report,
b) any available meeting notes, minutes, internal and external emails relating directly to the above expenses."

We wrote to you on 13th February, 2014 seeking clarification regarding the second part of your request, in particular, what was meant by ‘relating directly’ to the deducted expenses you referred to.

You confirmed on 17th February that you required any communications discussing these expenses, before the sale was concluded.

In response, we do hold the information you have requested. Please find attached a copy of the District Valuer’s report.

However, after careful consideration, we are of the view that the remainder of the information being requested should be withheld for reasons I will set out below.

As you will be aware, when dealing with any request, I must consider the effect of releasing the information to the public at large, not to a particular individual or organisation.

The information, comprised entirely of emails, would in our view prejudice the commercial interests of the Council by confirming our negotiating positions on these matters, which in turn could be detrimental to future negotiations.

Under Section 43 (2) of the Act, a public authority may refuse to disclose information if it would, or would likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person, including the public authority holding it. Commercial interest can be defined as the ability of a party to participate competitively in a commercial activity, such as tendering for contracts for the provision of goods or services.

In view of the considerations set out above, I believe that the exemption under Section 43 (2) is engaged and that the reports should be withheld from disclosure.

However, this exemption is subject to a public interest test, which requires me to consider whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information. In doing so, it is important to draw a distinction between what may be of interest to the public and what is genuinely in the public interest.

I accept that there is always likely to be a public interest in information concerning publicly owned property and public funds.

Nevertheless, in this case, there is in my view a stronger, countervailing public interest in ensuring that the Council is able to discuss matters such as this in private without prejudice to its position in future transactions. This in turn ensures best value for the taxpayer, which is clearly in the public interest.

Accordingly, I consider that this exemption should be maintained.

As I have refused to provide the information you have requested, I am providing you with formal notice of this fact in accordance with Section 17 of the Act.

If you are unhappy with the way in which your request has been handled, you can request a review by writing to:

The Head of Administration & Law
Carmarthenshire County Council
County Hall
Carmarthen
SA31 1JP

Email: [email address]

If you remain unhappy with the handling of your request or complaint, you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at:

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

Telephone: 0303 123 1113
Website: www.ico.gov.uk

There is no charge for making an appeal.

If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

John Tillman
Swyddog Gwybodaeth a Diogelu Data
Adran y Prif Weithredwr
Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin

Information & Data Protection Officer
Chief Executive's Department
Carmarthenshire County Council

Mewnol/Internal: 4127
Allanol/External: 01267 224127

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This e-mail and any attachments are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual to whom it is addressed.
If received in error please notify the sender immediately, delete the message from your computer and destroy any hard copies. The e-mail should not be disclosed to any other person, nor the contents acted upon.

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Dear Mr Tillman,

Thank you for providing the District Valuer's report.

However, I am requesting an internal review concerning your refusal, under Section 43(2), of the second part of my request for email correspondence. Please could you pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I believe it would be very much in the public interest to understand how these deductions were arrived at. In this particular instance the council's ability to negotiate is secondary to the authority's obligation to provide the residents and taxpayers of Carmarthenshire with complete transparency over this matter. Therefore the release of all email correspondence relating to the deductions, prior to the division, is essential.

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

Thank you,

Jacqui Thompson

Robert Edgecombe, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mrs Thompson,

Your email date the 21st March, seeking an internal review of the Council's response in this matter has been passed to me to deal with.

I will aim to respond fully within 20 working days, that is by the 17th April 2014.

Yours Sincerely

Robert Edgecombe
Acting Legal Services Manager

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Robert Edgecombe, Carmarthenshire Council

2 Attachments

Dear Madam,
 
Please find enclosed the Council’s response to your request for an
internal review in this matter.
 
Yours Faithfully
 
Robert Edgecombe
Acting Legal Services Manager
 

Mae'r e-bost hwn ac unrhyw atodiadau yn gyfrinachol ac wedi'u bwriadu at
ddefnydd yr unigolyn y'u cyfeiriwyd ato/ati yn unig. Mae'n bosib bod yr
e-bost hefyd yn cynnwys gwybodaeth gyfreithiol freintiedig. Os derbyniwch
y neges hon trwy gamgymeriad, rhowch wybod i'r sawl a'i hanfonodd ar
unwaith, dilëwch y neges o'ch cyfrifiadur a dinistriwch unrhyw gopïau
papur ohoni. Ni ddylech ddangos yr e-bost i unrhyw un arall, na gweithredu
ar sail y cynnwys. Eiddo'r awdur yw unrhyw farn neu safbwynt a fynegir, ac
nid ydynt o reidrwydd yn cynrychioli safbwynt y Cyngor. Dylech wirio am
firysau eich hunan cyn agor unrhyw atodiad. Nid ydym yn derbyn unrhyw
atebolrwydd am golled neu niwed a all fod wedi'i achosi gan firysau
meddalwedd neu trwy ryng-gipio’r neges hon neu ymyrryd â hi. Ni fydd y
Cyngor yn derbyn dogfennau a gyflwynir yn y cyfeiriad e-bost hwn at
ddibenion cyfreithiol, oni chytunir ar hynny yn ysgrifenedig ymlaen llaw
gyda'r sawl sy'n eu hanfon.

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