Humbug Shop Building 16 Marine Drive and 42 High Street, Margate

Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group made this Freedom of Information request to Thanet District Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was partially successful.

Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group

We are writing to request information under the Freedom of
Information Act

Re: Humbug Shop Building 16 Marine Drive and 42 High Street,
Margate

1. Details of any internal review, report or audit of this site by the authority.

2. What were the consequences of the review?

3. When was the authority aware that councillor Judith Russell was a shareholder in Melltree Properties.

4. What is the authority doing to recover the grant monies issued to Melltree Properties?

5. When did the authority report to SEEDA that the artist studios were not going ahead as per the agreed schedule and terms of the grant?

6. What did SEEDA instruct the Authority to do after this instruction?

7. How much of the grant monies paid to Melltree Properties is being requested to be repaid?

8. Has Melltree Properties provided receipts to the authority of expenditure they have spent on the building? Please provide details?

9. Details of any other public grants issued to Melltree Properties or their directors or shareholders: Richard Freeman, Wade Barker and Judith Russell either as individuals or through other registered companies?

10. What is the Authority doing about the continued derelict state of the building?

Our preferred format to receive this information is by electronic
means. If one part of this request can be answered sooner than
others, please send that information first followed by any
subsequent data. If you need any clarification of this request
please feel free to email me. If FOI requests of a similar nature
have already been asked could you please include your responses to
those requests.

Many public authorities release their contracts with private
vendors in line with the Freedom of Information Act. The exemption
for commercial interest under the Act (section 43) is a qualified
exemption, which means information can only be withheld if it is in
the public’s interest. The public have an interest in knowing the
terms of contracts and grants awarded by public authorities,
whether or not public money changes hands immediately.

If you are relying on section 41 (the exemption for legal breach of
confidence) then we would like to know the following:
• When these confidentiality agreements were agreed
• All correspondence and email in which these confidentiality
agreements were discussed.
• The precise wording of the confidentiality agreements

We ask these questions because guidance issued by both the Lord
Chancellor (draft guidance on FOI implementation) and the Office of
Government Commerce (Model terms and conditions for goods and
services) specifically state that public authorities should not
enter into these types of agreements. They go directly against the
spirit of the laws of disclosure. We would also point to the
Information Commissioner’s guidance on accepting blanket commercial
confidentiality agreements: ‘Unless confidentiality clauses are
necessary or reasonable, there is a real risk that, in the event of
a complaint, the Commissioner would order disclosure in any case.’

Finally, within the law of confidence there is also a public
interest test. Therefore, the information should be disclosed in
full. If any parts are redacted they must be for information that
can be proven to be a legal breach of confidence in court, and only
then where secrecy can be shown to be in the public interest. These
are difficult positions to argue when public money is at stake or
where a public authority is offering a private company a monopoly
to charge its stakeholders.

We would be grateful if you could confirm, in writing, that you
have received this request, and we look forward to hearing from you
within the 20-working day statutory time period.

Yours faithfully,

Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group

Alan Martin, Thanet District Council

Ref No:28896 / 1779834

Dear Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group

Thank you for your communication of 17/06/2011 requesting information about the Humbug Shop Building 16 Marine Drive and 42 High Street, Margate.

Your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and will be answered within twenty working days.

If you have any queries about this request do not hesitate to contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Martin
Information Request Assessor

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Niki Walker, Thanet District Council

Ref No: 28896 / 1779834

Dear Sirs

Thank you for your communication received on 18/06/2011 where you requested information about grants to 16 Marine Drive and 42 High Street, Margate.

We have now completed searching for the information you requested.

The information which can be disclosed is shown within this response.

The remainder of the information that you requested is exempt under section S31 of the Freedom of Information Act and is therefore withheld. This is because it is in the public interest that justice should be properly administered and that the ability of litigants to present their cases at court should not be prejudiced.

In response to your initial inquiry Questions 1-10 are exempt under S31 of the Freedom of Information Act and are therefore withheld.

In response to your subsequent request dated 25/06/2011 for copies of audit reports relating to grant funding where repayments were made. The GOSE Audit report and supporting documentation are restricted and require the written agreement of the Department of Communities and Local Government prior to release to a third party. We have made a request on your behalf, but at the time of writing this response Thanet District Council had not received written agreement for the release of these documents. However, once I have I heard back from them I will contact you.

Questions 1-5 are exempt under S31 of the Freedom of Information Act and are therefore witheld.

In answer to Question 6 the officer responsible for the administration of grant payments and works for the aforementioned projects was Mr D Harding - Programme Director Margate Renewal Partnership.

Questions 7and 8 are exempt under S31 of the Freedom of Information Act and are therefore witheld

Question 9 - The authority's External Funding Protocol was adopted by Cabinet on 20th March 2008.

Question 10 - The protocol refers to the roles and responsibilities of officers and departments in regards to external funding. Once the protocol received Cabinet approval, officers and departments therefore had to abide by the protocol.

Question 11 - Requires the written permission of the Department of Communities and Local Government to which Thanet District Council are awaiting a response and will contact you on receipt of this.

Question 12 - The exact amount and date paid of each reclaim is as per the table below:-

Ref.
Project Name
Amount Repaid (£)
Date Repaid

002
Encouraging Social Inclusion - Main
1,805.73
23/10/2009

006
Business Networks and Cross Working - Main
17,443.08
20/03/2006

011
Thanet Museum Strategy
63,702.48
18/06/2008

015
Thanet Tourism Grant Scheme Phase 3
52,959.94
23/04/2007

016
Margate Harbour and Turner Centre
22,634.97
20/03/2006

028
Business Networks and Cross Working - Trans
20,159.09
20/03/2006

031
Organisation and Development Fund - Main
16,237.37
23/10/2009

033
Organisation and Development Fund - Trans
42,363.28
23/10/2009

034
Marketing and Communications
9,924.00
10/07/2006

036
Encouraging Social Inclusion - Trans
1,092.52
23/10/2009

037
Thanet Innovation Centre
250,000.00
12/11/2007

085
Stimulating Innovation and Entrepreneurship
1,796.85
24/02/2006

158
Thanet Tourism Grant Scheme Phase 4
81,890.25
10/05/2007

451
Delivering Margate's Creative Quarter
21,331.09
27/11/2009

603,340.65

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to: Information Request Assessor, Thanet District Council, P O Box 9 Cecil Street, Margate Kent CT9 1XZ, or send an email to [email address].

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely,

Nicola Walker
Finance Manager (Capital, HRA, External Funding)

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Niki Walker, Thanet District Council

15 July 2011

Ref No:28896/1779834

Dear Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group

Further to your telephone call this morning please find below the response to your request for information. Please accept my apology for any confusion caused. It would appear that our Information Request Assessor received a request for further information which unfortuately had been indexed to the wrong case, hence the initial reply you received.

Thank you for your communication received on 18/06/2011 where you requested information about grants to 16 Marine Drive and 42 High Street, Margate.

We have now completed searching for the information you requested.

The information that you requested is exempt under section S31 of the Freedom of Informtion Act and is therefore withheld. This is because it is in the public interest that justice should be properly administered and that the ability of litigants to present their cases at court should not be prejudiced.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to: Information Request Assessor, Thanet District Council, P O Box 9 Cecil Street, Margate Kent CT9 1XZ, or send an email to [email address].

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely,

Nicola Walker
Finance Manager (Capital, HRA, External Funding)

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Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group

Dear Thanet District Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Thanet District Council's handling of my FOI request 'Humbug Shop Building 16 Marine Drive and 42 High Street, Margate'.

I do not believe that all of my requests should be exempt under S31 of The Freedom of Information Act.

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

Yours faithfully,

Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group

Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group

Dear Thanet District Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Thanet District Council's handling of my FOI request 'Humbug Shop Building 16 Marine Drive and 42 High Street, Margate'.

You have not replied to our request for an internal review within the agreed timeframe. Failure to do so will result in this matter being reported to the Information Commissioner.

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

Yours faithfully,

Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group

Alan Martin, Thanet District Council

23 November 2011

Ref No:28896/1779834

Dear Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group

Thank you for your reminder, received today, regarding a request for an internal review of the response to the above case.

I must apologise, looking at our FOI system I see that I received your original review request on the Friday 15/07/2011, but neglected to forward it on to our Legal Services department. This is the first time this has happened and hopefully the last as we have the process in place now for the system to send a reminder.

I shall forward your request for a review to Legal Services today.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Martin
Corporate Information Officer

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Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group

Dear Alan Martin,

You will note that despite apologising on November 23rd 2011 for failing to forward the request for an Internal Review on the 15th of July 2011, you have still failed to respond within the legal time frame. It is now well over due. Failure to comply is unlawful and the matter will be taken further.

Yours sincerely,

Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group

Alan Martin, Thanet District Council

Ref No:28896 / 0

Dear Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group

Thank you for your communication of 18th January 2012. I see from our document management system that your appeal was sent to Legal Services on the 23rd November 2011 and is still outstanding. I shall forward your reminder to them.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Martin
Information Request Assessor

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Harvey Patterson, Thanet District Council

Ref No:28896 / 1779834

Dear Mrs Oldfield

I refer to your e-mail of 18 January 2012 regarding your request for a review of the decision of the Council to withhold information relating to 16 Marine Drive and 42 High Street, Margate (the 'Old Humbug' Shop) pursuant to Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. For the avoidance of doubt this review is in relation to your original request of 18 June 2011

Section 31 of the 2000 Act is an absolute exemption meaning that if it is engaged the Council does not have to consider whether or not there is a public interest in discosure. In this regard, the Council has instituted legal proceedings againts the former owners of the premises for the recovery of grant monies and those proceedings are current and being actively defended. This being the case there is no doubt in my mind that the disclosure of some of the information requested by you would compomise the Council's prospects for success and/or prejudice a fair trial and therefore prejudice the administration of justice. Consequently, for the sake of clarity I set out your requests below and my decision on review in respect of each of them.

Q1. Details of any internal review, report or audit of this site by the authority.
The Council holds relevant information. However, that information is withheld pursuant to Section 31 of the Freedom of Informatio Act 2000 as disclosure would harm the Council's case and prejudice a fair trial. It would therefore prejudice the administration of justice.

Q2. What were the consequences of the review?
This is a request for an explanation. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not confer the right to an explanation.

Q3. When was the authority aware that councillor Judith Russell was a shareholder in Melltree Properties.
11 August 2010

Q4. What is the authority doing to recover the grant monies issued to Melltree Properties?
This is a request for an explanation. However, as mentioned above, the Council has institiuted legal proceedings against Melltree Properties for the recovery of grant monies.

Q5. When did the authority report to SEEDA that the artist studios were not going ahead as per the agreed schedule and terms of the grant?

The Council holds relevant information. However, that information is withheld pursuant to Section 31 of the Freedom of Informatio Act 2000 as disclosure would harm the Council's case and prejudice a fair trial. It would therefore prejudice the administration of justice.

Q6. What did SEEDA instruct the Authority to do after this instruction?
The Council holds relevant information. However, that information is withheld pursuant to Section 31 of the Freedom of Informatio Act 2000 as disclosure would harm the Council's case and prejudice a fair trial. It would therefore prejudice the administration of justice.

Q7. How much of the grant monies paid to Melltree Properties is being requested to be repaid?
The full amount.

Q8. Has Melltree Properties provided receipts to the authority of expenditure they have spent on the building? Please provide details?
The Council holds relevant information. However, that information is withheld pursuant to Section 31 of the Freedom of Informatio Act 2000 as disclosure would be likely to prejuduce a fair trial. It would therefore be likely to prejudice the administration of justice.

Q9. Details of any other public grants issued to Melltree Properties or their directors or shareholders: Richard Freeman, Wade Barker and Judith Russell either as individuals or through other registered companies?
The Council hold no relevant information.

Q10. What is the Authority doing about the continued derelict state of the building?
This is a request for an explanation. However, the property has recently been sold at auction and the Council considers that the new owner are likely to put and keep the premises in repair

Summary of Decision on Review

The Council's original decision in relation to Questions 1,5,6 and 8 has been upheld. Information has now been supplied in relation to Question 3,4, 7 and 10. The Council has confirmed that it holds no relevant information in relation to Question 9 and has declined to provide an explanation to Question 2.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely,

Harvey Patterson
Corporate & Regulatory Services Manager

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