letter from Wirral Council's auditors Grant Thornton UK LLP regarding LOBO loans objection

The request was partially successful.

ScarletPimpernel

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Earlier this year Wirral Council's auditors reported the following in a written report to councillors on its Audit and Risk Management Committee:

"On 11 August 2016 we received an objection to the accounts under sections 26 and 27 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. The objector requested that we prepare a public interest report and apply to the courts for a declaration that Wirral Council’s Lender Option, Borrower Option loan borrowing as referenced in the 2015-2016 accounts is unlawful. In keeping with objections received by several authorities the objector raises concerns in respect of the:-
rationality of the decision to borrow on LOBO terms;
-adequacy of the information on which the Council based their decisions to enter into LOBO arrangements;
-scale of borrowing on LOBO terms and associated exposure to interest rate increases;
-alleged improper speculation on future interest rate changes;
and
-use of advisers with alleged undisclosed financial incentives to promote LOBOs.

Our work in relation to the objection is on-going and we have received prompt and full co-operation from the Council in both provision of relevant information and responses to our queries. Whilst it is impossible to put a definite timeframe on it, we plan to conclude our consideration of the objection as soon as possible."

Please could you supply the following (I am happy for the local electors name and personal details to be redacted):

a) a copy of the objection (the objection has to be sent to Wirral Council and the auditors),

b) a copy of any correspondence between Grant Thornton and the objector from the date of the objection (11th August 2016) and the date of this request (3rd May 2019) that Wirral Council holds a copy of.

Thank you,

Yours faithfully,

John Brace

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Brace

 

Thank you for your request for information shown below. 

 

 

“Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

 

Earlier this year Wirral Council's auditors reported the following in a
written report to councillors on its Audit and Risk Management Committee: 

 

"On 11 August 2016 we received an objection to the accounts under sections
26 and 27 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. The objector
requested that we prepare a public interest report and apply to the courts
for a declaration that Wirral Council’s Lender Option, Borrower Option
loan borrowing as referenced in the 2015-2016 accounts is unlawful.  In
keeping with objections received by several authorities the objector
raises concerns in respect of the:- rationality of the decision to borrow
on LOBO terms; -adequacy of the information on which the Council based
their decisions to enter into LOBO arrangements; -scale of borrowing on
LOBO terms and associated exposure to interest rate increases; -alleged
improper speculation on future interest rate changes; and -use of advisers
with alleged undisclosed financial incentives to promote LOBOs.

 

Our work in relation to the objection is on-going and we have received
prompt and full co-operation from the Council in both provision of
relevant information and responses to our queries. Whilst it is impossible
to put a definite timeframe on it, we plan to conclude our consideration
of the objection as soon as possible."

 

Please could you supply the following (I am happy for the local electors
name and personal details to be redacted):

 

a) a copy of the objection (the objection has to be sent to Wirral Council
and the auditors),

 

b) a copy of any correspondence between Grant Thornton and the objector
from the date of the objection (11th August 2016) and the date of this
request (3rd May 2019) that Wirral Council holds a copy of.

 

Thank you,

 

Yours faithfully,

 

John Brace”

 

 

FOI Response:

Wirral Council considers that a copy of the objection letter and any
correspondence in relation to this matter as you have requested is covered
by the prohibition against disclosure contained in Schedule 11 of the
Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 (a breach of which is a criminal
offence).  Therefore Wirral Council is unable to provide the information
requested as we consider that this is exempt from disclosure under Section
44 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

Section 44 exemption overrides the normal right of access to information
under the Freedom of Information Act where another enactment otherwise
prohibits it. In these cases, not only will the information be exempt, but
the public authority will have no discretion to release voluntarily either
and no consideration is required to be given to the public interest. You
can find out more about Section 44 at the following link:
[1]http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000...

 

You have the right under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000
to ask for an internal review of the refusal of the information requested.
Please direct any request for an internal review to
[2][Wirral Borough Council request email] and your request will be allocated for
review.  If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of an internal review
you also have the right to complain to the information Commissioner, who
can be contacted at [3]https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Tracy O'Hare

Information Management Officer

Business Management

Treasury Building

Argyle Street

Birkenhead
Wirral
CH41 1AH

[4]Tel:0151 691 8397

[5][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

 

 

 

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
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References

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1. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000...
2. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]
3. https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/
4. file:///tmp/tel:0151
5. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]

ScarletPimpernel

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 'letter from Wirral Council's auditors Grant Thornton UK LLP regarding LOBO loans objection'.

Wirral Council refused this request referring to s.44 of FOIA 2000 (Prohibitions on Disclosure) and referred to Schedule 11 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 ("LAA 2014"), see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014... .

However there are two exceptions that are relevant to the bar on disclosure set out in Schedule 11(2)(1)(a) and Schedule 11(2)(2) which are:-

11(2)(1)(a)

2(1) Information to which this Schedule applies may not be disclosed except—
(a) with the consent of the body or person to whom the information relates,

and

11(2)(2)

(2) This paragraph does not prohibit the disclosure of information if the information is or has been available to the public from any other source.

Therefore if the objector, Grant Thornton or the unknown third parties consented to disclosure of the information there would be no bar on disclosure. I therefore ask if Wirral Council has asked the objector, Grant Thornton or the third parties if the information can be disclosed, if not why not and if after doing so they give their assent, will this information be disclosed?

Thank you,

John Brace

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

Yours faithfully,

John Brace

Paul Cardin left an annotation ()

In the interests of openness, transparency and with a burning and justified desire in holding corporately abusive Wirral Council's feet to the fire at every opportunity, I hereby approve the release of information to the requester,

Many thanks,

Paul Cardin, LOBO Loans (Wirral Council) objector of August 2016. That's practically three years now.

ScarletPimpernel

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 'letter from Wirral Council's auditors Grant Thornton UK LLP regarding LOBO loans objection'.

Please note that the objector has now confirmed to myself that he consents to Wirral Council responding to this FOI request with the information relating to his objection. He has also left an annotation here but you can confirm this with him yourself by email.

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

Yours faithfully,

John Brace

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Brace,

Thank you for your further correspondence(s), we have treated this as internal review as you have expressed dissatisfaction with the responses received from the Information Management team with regards to your initial request

The Council will aim to respond to this within 20 working days from the receipt of your request.

If you then remain dissatisfied you have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner at https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/

Yours sincerely,

Chelsea Dalton
Information Management Officer
Business Management - ICT
Treasury Building
Argyle Street
Birkenhead
Wirral
CH41 1AH
Tel: 0151 666 5201
[Wirral Borough Council request email]

PLEASE FORWARD ALL FOI RESPONSES TO [Wirral Borough Council request email]

show quoted sections

Dalton, Chelsea, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Brace

 

I have been asked to contact you regarding an outstanding Freedom of
Information request, that you recently requested we undertake an internal
review.

 

There is no statutory timeframe within which an internal review should be
completed – we aim as a matter of best practice to do so within 20 working
days but this cannot be guaranteed. In this case,  we are in contact with
Grant Thornton who, as you are aware, are required to give permission to
the release of this letter but we have yet to receive a response.

 

To reassure you, we can confirm that senior officers have raised the issue
as a priority but we cannot guarantee a response will be ready for the
10th July. 

 

We will revert to you as soon as we are in a position to do so.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Chelsea Dalton

Information Management Officer

Business Management - ICT

Treasury Building

Argyle Street

Birkenhead

Wirral

CH41 1AH

Tel: 0151 666 5201

[1][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

PLEASE FORWARD ALL FOI RESPONSES TO [2][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended
solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed.
If you have received this email in error please notify the system manager.

References

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1. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]
2. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]

ScarletPimpernel

Dear Dalton, Chelsea,

Thanks for the update which gives an update as to part (b) of this request (which I will guess actually encompasses more than one letter due to its protracted timescale).

However it doesn't explain as to part (a) of this request why you are asking Grant Thornton when:-

i) in order to be valid the letter of objection was sent to both yourselves and Grant Thornton (therefore you already have a copy) and
ii) that the issue of consent would not lie with Grant Thornton but the with the author of the objection.

Yes there is no statutory timescale as to when to conduct FOI internal reviews, but if it goes beyond 40 working days I'll consider appealing to ICO.

Yours sincerely,

John Brace

Paterson, Lynette M., Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Brace

 

We refer to your request for an internal review of the Council’s response
to your Freedom of Information request.  Please take the contents of this
email as our Internal Review response.

 

Your original correspondence sought the following, in relation to a letter
dated 11 August 2016, which alleged that Wirral Council’s Lender Option,
Borrower Option loan borrowing (as referenced in the 2015-2016 accounts)
was unlawful:-

 

“Please could you supply the following (I am happy for the local electors
name and personal details to be redacted):

a) a copy of the objection (the objection has to be sent to Wirral Council
and the auditors),

b) a copy of any correspondence between Grant Thornton and the objector
from the date of the objection (11th August 2016) and the date of this
request (3rd May 2019) that Wirral Council holds a copy of."

 

The Council responded on 30 May 2019 citing Schedule 11 of the Local Audit
and Accountability Act 2014 (a breach of which is a criminal offence) and
withholding the requested information pursuant to Section 44 of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

Your request for internal review was received 12 June 2019  in which you
stated:-

"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 'letter from Wirral Council's
auditors Grant Thornton UK LLP regarding LOBO loans objection'.

Wirral Council refused this request referring to s.44 of FOIA 2000
(Prohibitions on Disclosure) and referred to Schedule 11 of the Local
Audit and Accountability Act 2014 ("LAA 2014"), see
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014... .

However there are two exceptions that are relevant to the bar on
disclosure set out in Schedule 11(2)(1)(a) and Schedule 11(2)(2) which
are:-

11(2)(1)(a)

2(1) Information to which this Schedule applies may not be disclosed
except—

(a) with the consent of the body or person to whom the information
relates,

and

11(2)(2)

(2) This paragraph does not prohibit the disclosure of information if the
information is or has been available to the public from any other source.

Therefore if the objector, Grant Thornton or the unknown third parties
consented to disclosure of the information there would be no bar on
disclosure. I therefore ask if Wirral Council has asked the objector,
Grant Thornton or the third parties if the information can be disclosed,
if not why not and if after doing so they give their assent, will this
information be disclosed?

 

On 11 July 2019, you further stated:

 

“Please note that the objector has now confirmed to myself that he
consents to Wirral Council responding to this FOI request with the
information relating to his objection. He has also left an annotation here
but you can confirm this with him yourself by email.  A full history of my
FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this
address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/l...

 

As the reviewing Officer I have considered the documentation and
legislation in question and have taken note of your further comments made.
It is my opinion that an anonymised copy of the objection letter should be
made available to you and this is attached.  The document has been
redacted in accordance with Section 40 (2) of FOIA 2000 which exempts from
disclosure personal data, where you are not the data subject.  Whilst the
objector’s identity is known to you, this does not negate the Council’s
obligations under the Data Protection Act 2018 to ensure that personal
data is lawful and fairly processed and that personal data should not be
subject to further processing.  This is an absolute exemption so there is
no requirement to consider the public interest test in this regard.

 

In relation to point b) of your original request, I am satisfied that
Wirral Council holds no recorded information.

 

I confirm that as reviewing officer it is my decision to substitute the
original decision to withhold the objection letter under Section 44 FOIA
2000 and have disclosed the letter as requested.  If you are dissatisfied
with the outcome of this internal review, you may complain directly to the
information Commissioner’s Office, who can be contacted at
[1]https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Lynette Paterson

Principal Information Management Officer

Wirral Council

Business Management - ICT

Treasury Building

Argyle Street

Birkenhead

Wirral

CH41 1AH

 

Tel: 0151 691 8201

[2][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

 

 

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

 

 

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended
solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed.
If you have received this email in error please notify the system manager.

References

Visible links
1. https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/
2. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]