Information on Shropshire Council's use of consultants ESP

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Shropshire Council should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear Shropshire Council,

The Council commissioned ESP Ltd (“ESP”) to perform work related to planning application 17/01033/EIA.

In a response (1st October 2019) to an FOI (25th August 2019), Mark Barrow, Shropshire Council’s Director of Place, stated that the total expenditure to date (on ESP for work relating to planning application 17/01033/EIA) is £3,083.70 (excl. VAT), that no copies of purchase orders are held for individual planning applications, and that ESP are retained by the Council to provide landscape consultancy advice on planning applications as required.
  
Please provide the following in relation to ESP being retained by the Council to provide consultancy advice on planning applications:

1. A copy of all original documentation authorising ESP to be retained by the Council.
2. The date when the Council first retained ESP.
3. Name and position of the Council officer who originally authorised ESP to be retained by the Council.

Please also provide the following:

4. A copy of all documentation authorising ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA.
5. Name and position of the Council officer who authorised ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA.
6. The date(s) when the Council required ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA.
7. A copy of all documentation requiring ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA.
8. Name and position of the Council officer(s) who required ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA.

I would like all the above requested information to be provided to me as electronic copies.
 
If this request is too wide or unclear, I would be grateful if you could contact me as I understand that under the Act, you are required to advise and assist requesters. If any of this information is already in the public domain, please can you direct me to it, with page references and URLs.

Yours faithfully,
George Edwards

Dear Shropshire Council,

All public authorities are required to respond to requests within 20 working days under FOI legislation.

I would be grateful if you can acknowledge receipt of this request (delivered 4th November 2019), so I can be assured of a response within the 20 days deadline.

Yours faithfully,
George Edwards

FOI, Shropshire Council

Dear Mr Edwards

 

Thank you for your request for information received on 04/11/2019.  We are
currently processing your request in accordance with the relevant
legislation.

 

Your request is for information relating to use of consultants ESP.

 

(Please note this may be a summary of your request and full details, as
outlined in the request, will be sent to the team providing the response).

 

If you feel the information is inaccurate or requires amendment, please
notify us as soon as possible using the contact details provided below. 

 

Yours sincerely

 

Information Governance Team

Shropshire Council

Shirehall

Abbey Foregate

SHREWSBURY

SY2 6ND

 

Tel:                  01743 252179 / 252774 / 252747

Email:             [Shropshire Council request email]

Web:               [1]www.shropshire.gov.uk/access-to-information

 

 

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References

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Dear Shropshire Council,

I remind you that this request is now overdue.

Please provide a response as required under Freedom of Information legislation.

Yours sincerely,
George Edwards

Mark Barrow, Shropshire Council

Dear Mr Edwards.

I apologise for the delay in our response. You have requested the following information:

1. A copy of all original documentation authorising ESP to be retained by the Council - Not retained.

2. The date when the Council first retained ESP - Financial year 2015/16.

3. Name and position of the Council officer who originally authorised ESP to be retained by the Council - Ian Kilby, Planning Services Manager.

Please also provide the following:

4. A copy of all documentation authorising ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - No copies are held for individual applications. ESP are retained by the Council to provide landscape consultancy advice on planning applications as required.

5. Name and position of the Council officer who authorised ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - As per Q3 above.

6. The date(s) when the Council required ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - Information not held. The application was validated on the 13th March 2017, and ESP would have been engaged shortly after this date.

7. A copy of all documentation requiring ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - As per Q4 above.

8. Name and position of the Council officer(s) who required ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - Kelvin Hall, Technical Specialist Planning Officer (Case Officer)

Regards

Mark Barrow
Director of Place

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Dear Mark Barrow,

Please find my annotated comments with regards to your responses below:

1. A copy of all original documentation authorising ESP to be retained by the Council - Not retained.

[GE] This is unlikely because the Council admitted it retained ESP only 4 - 5 years ago, which is well within standard records retention periods for retaining records relating to contract/audit/finance. Please ask staff concerned to locate these records and provide the information as requested for this item.

2. The date when the Council first retained ESP - Financial year 2015/16.

3. Name and position of the Council officer who originally authorised ESP to be retained by the Council - Ian Kilby, Planning Services Manager.

Please also provide the following:

4. A copy of all documentation authorising ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - No copies are held for individual applications. ESP are retained by the Council to provide landscape consultancy advice on planning applications as required.

[GE] It is implausible that no records are retained. For instance, how does the Council request ESP to carry out consultancy work? There must be, at the very least, a record of this. Does the Council not apply a robust system of checks on spend? Therefore, please provide the information as requested for this item.

5. Name and position of the Council officer who authorised ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - As per Q3 above.

6. The date(s) when the Council required ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - Information not held. The application was validated on the 13th March 2017, and ESP would have been engaged shortly after this date.

[GE] Again, it is implausible that the Council do not hold records of transactions that result in financial outlay, otherwise how can it authorise payment and account for that spend against its budget? Furthermore, the Council’s planning portal shows ESP were not engaged with this application until late August 2019, not “engaged shortly after [13th March 2017]” as you have stated. Therefore, please provide the information as requested for this item.

7. A copy of all documentation requiring ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - As per Q4 above.

[GE] Again, it is implausible that the Council do not hold such records otherwise how does it communicate any order to ESP that its services are required for a particular planning application? Furthermore, how does the Council verify the service it ordered was delivered to its satisfaction? Finally, how does the Council authorise payment for the delivered service if records do not exist throughout the whole process as you claim? Therefore, please provide the information as requested for this item.

8. Name and position of the Council officer(s) who required ESP to provide consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - Kelvin Hall, Technical Specialist Planning Officer (Case Officer)

I look forward to a timely response, and remind the Council that, despite several reminders, a full and proper response to this request is well overdue.

Yours sincerely,
George Edwards

Mark Barrow, Shropshire Council

Sincere apologies, but I am now on leave until January 2nd.

 

Seasons Greetings

 

Mark

 

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Dear Shropshire Council,

I remind you that this request is now long overdue.

Please provide a response as required under Freedom of Information legislation.

Yours faithfully,
George Edwards

Heather Jones, Shropshire Council

Dear Mr Edwards

Our ref: CAS-2060793-L4D1X2

Thank you for your email. We are sorry that you have not received a response to your request for a review. We are looking into this and will reply as soon as we are able to.

Yours sincerely

Information Governance Team
Shropshire Council
Shirehall
Abbey Foregate
SHREWSBURY
SY2 6ND

Telephone: 01743 252179
Email: [Shropshire Council request email]

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Dear Shropshire Council,

I remind you that this request is now incredibly long overdue.

Please provide a response to my updated request as required under Freedom of Information legislation.

Yours sincerely,
George Edwards

Information.Request, Shropshire Council

Dear Mr Edwards

Our Ref: CAS-2060793-L4D1X2

Thank you for our email. We are sorry for the delay in responding to the Internal Review. I have sent a reminder to the person responding.

Yours sincerely

Information Governance Team
Shropshire Council
Shirehall
Abbey Foregate
SHREWSBURY
SY2 6ND

Telephone: 01743 252179
Email: [Shropshire Council request email]

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Dear Shropshire Council,

I remind you that this request is even more overdue.

Please provide a response to my updated request as required under Freedom of Information legislation.

Yours sincerely,
George Edwards

Tom Mullen, Shropshire Council

1 Attachment

  • Attachment

    17 01033 EIA Erection of four poultry buildings and associated development Footbridge Farm Tasley Redacted.pdf

    117K Download View as HTML

Dear Mr Edwards,

 

Following your follow up email to the response sent to you below we have
reviewed our response and provided a further response to each of your
follow up questions in red below.

 

I apologise for the delay in providing a response to these follow up
questions.

 

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.  You can find more details at [1]www.ico.org.uk or by telephone on
0303 123 1113.

 

Kind Regards

 

Tom

 

Information Governance Team

Shropshire Council

Shirehall

Abbey Foregate

SHREWSBURY

SY2 6ND

 

Telephone: 01743 252179/2774

Email: [2][Shropshire Council request email]

 

 

Dear Mark Barrow,

 

Please find my annotated comments with regards to your responses below:

 

1. A copy of all original documentation authorising ESP to be retained by
the Council - Not retained.

 

[GE] This is unlikely because the Council admitted it retained ESP only 4
- 5 years ago, which is well within standard records retention periods for
retaining records relating to contract/audit/finance. Please ask staff
concerned to locate these records and provide the information as requested
for this item.

 

Answer: This would have been in hard copy and has not been retained.  ESP
provide services which includes a retention arrangement under which
officers can refer specific case through the year. This has provided the
Council with a responsive service level and this is what happened in
relation to application 17/01033/EIA, i.e. it was one of a number of cases
that ESP will have advised on as part of that retention agreement over the
12 month consultancy period.

 

2. The date when the Council first retained ESP - Financial year 2015/16.

 

3. Name and position of the Council officer who originally authorised ESP
to be retained by the Council - Ian Kilby, Planning Services Manager.

 

Please also provide the following:

 

4. A copy of all documentation authorising ESP to provide consultancy
advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - No copies are
held for individual applications. ESP are retained by the Council to
provide landscape consultancy advice on planning applications as required.

 

[GE] It is implausible that no records are retained. For instance, how
does the Council request ESP to carry out consultancy work? There must be,
at the very least, a record of this. Does the Council not apply a robust
system of checks on spend? Therefore, please provide the information as
requested for this item.

 

Answer: Case Officer email dated 17.07.2019 is attached. 

 

5. Name and position of the Council officer who authorised ESP to provide
consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - As
per Q3 above.

 

6. The date(s) when the Council required ESP to provide consultancy advice
in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - Information not held.
The application was validated on the 13th March 2017, and ESP would have
been engaged shortly after this date.

 

[GE] Again, it is implausible that the Council do not hold records of
transactions that result in financial outlay, otherwise how can it
authorise payment and account for that spend against its budget?
Furthermore, the Council’s planning portal shows ESP were not engaged with
this application until late August 2019, not “engaged shortly after [13th
March 2017]” as you have stated. Therefore, please provide the information
as requested for this item.

 

Answer: See answer for 4 above and attached email dated 17.07.2019.

 

7. A copy of all documentation requiring ESP to provide consultancy advice
in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA - As per Q4 above.

 

[GE] Again, it is implausible that the Council do not hold such records
otherwise how does it communicate any order to ESP that its services are
required for a particular planning application? Furthermore, how does the
Council verify the service it ordered was delivered to its satisfaction?
Finally, how does the Council authorise payment for the delivered service
if records do not exist throughout the whole process as you claim?
Therefore, please provide the information as requested for this item.

 

Answer:  See answer to 1 and 4 above.  Invoices are checked at the point
of receipt and authorised via an electronic system. 

 

8. Name and position of the Council officer(s) who required ESP to provide
consultancy advice in relation to planning application 17/01033/EIA -
Kelvin Hall, Technical Specialist Planning Officer (Case Officer)

 

I look forward to a timely response, and remind the Council that, despite
several reminders, a full and proper response to this request is well
overdue.

 

Yours sincerely,

George Edwards

 

              

 

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Dear Shropshire Council

Please find my comments with regards to the Council’s response:

Regardless of the format of records, be they electronic or hard copy, the correct retention policy must be applied, and it is unclear why the Council has not retained some records just because they are hard copy.

The Council has a retention arrangement with ESP, and according to FOIA, all relevant information held by ESP must therefore be considered to be held by the Council. In the light of this, perhaps the Council can reconsider its responses to questions 1, 6 & 7.

In the redacted copy of an email between the Council and ESP provided in response to question 4, the author asks ESP: “Can you indicate what your timescales will be for getting comments back please. If you want me to email you any of the documents direct, let me know”. Based on the author’s comments, it is implausible that there was no further email correspondence between the Council and ESP. Please therefore provide all further email correspondence between these two parties.

Further to the Council’s response to question 7, please provide a copy of the information that the ESP invoices were checked against at the point of receipt by the Council.

Yours sincerely,

George Edwards