Purchase of 10 Douglas Road, Colwyn Bay

Steve Hunt made this Freedom of Information request to Conwy County Borough Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

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

Dear CCBC,

Please provide ALL information you hold with regard to your attempted purchase of 10, Douglas Road, Colwyn Bay.

This must include:

1) Copies of the minutes of any meetings in which the purchase of the property was discussed.
2) Information regarding what the Council want the property for, why this house in particular?
3) Information on how the purchase is to be funded.
4) The decision process the Council used to decide it was worth putting an offer of £120,000 on a property only reasonably worth around half that amount on the open market.
5) The decision process the Council used to decide to attempt to bribe a private purchaser who had also made an offer on the property in an attempt to get him to withdraw his offer and then keep silent about the Council's bribe.
6) How much the Council eventually agreed for purchase of the property.
7) Details of any consultation with any external bodies, groups or persons regarding the property.
8) Any other information not included in the above bullet points.

Steve Hunt

Conwy Council,

You are reminded you have BY LAW 5 days to comply with this perfectly legitimate request for information.

You are already under investigation for numerous breaches of THE LAW - I shall not hesitate to report you once again should you willfully break the law yet further.

Steve Hunt

Info Regs Unit/Uned.Rheol-Gwyb, Conwy County Borough Council

Unit FOI 965-09.

Dear Mr Hunt

Please find below information in relation to your enquiry.

1) Copy of Cabinet Minutes 13/10/2009 accessible via link below;

http://modgoveng.conwy.gov.uk/Published/...

2) Property identified as part of the Bay-Life Initiative and the Strategic Regeneration of Colwyn Bay.

3) Refer to minute 385 (c) of the Cabinet Minutes 13/10/2009.

4) The premise of the question is not accepted.

5) No information is held.

6) The property transaction is not yet completed. Disclosure of the final agreed figure could possibly prejudice the completion of the sale and consideration was given to claiming a section 43 exemption from disclosure at this particular time.

Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act is an exemption that relates to Commercial Interests and applies to trade secrets, and to information which, if disclosed would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person, including the authority holding it.

Section 43 is a 'qualified exemption' which means that any decision to withhold the information is also subject to the public interest test. In such a case, if it is deemed to be more in the public interest to disclose the information, it should not be withheld.

In accordance with Council procedures the section 43 exemption was considered along with the public interest elements, and it has been decided that it is not in the commercial interests of Conwy CBC nor in the wider public interest to disclose this information prior to the transaction being completed. Once completion has taken place consideration will be given to the disclosure of final figure involved.

7) Engineering & Design Service consulted with an external Valuer to confirm that the price to be paid reflects market value. That external Valuer was Mr Geoff Butterworth, Llandudno. Prior to Engineering & Design Service being involved Housing Strategy liaised with Pennaf Housing Association as to their proposed purchase of it. Welsh Assembly Government were also involved.

8) It is not possible to provide information without further clarification. Please be specific as what 'other information' is being requested in relation to your enquiry in order to enable it to be identified and located.

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 this email

If for whatever reason you are still unhappy please contact the Information Commissioner Wales, Cambrian Buildings, Mount Stewart Square, Cardiff. CF10 5FL.

Yours sincerely

David Smith
Corporate Information & Complaints Manager

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Mr Smith,

Whilst I digest the remainder of your reply, please could you explain your response to points 4 and 5:

Point 4: "The premise of the question is not accepted" - what do you mean by this? are you denying that the Council initially offered £119,000 (as confirmed by Nigel Crabtree of Stirling Estate Agents) for the purchase of this property?

Point 5: "No information is held" - that is clearly a LIE - since I already have copies of emails from your Gareth Peters (with full headers tracing them back to CCBC's computers). Are you then stating on public record that it was Gareth Peters ALONE who decided to try and bribe Arthur Jones with £1,000 of taxpayers money? - IE there are no instructions from anyone higher in the Council for him to attempt to bribe Mr Jones to keep quiet about the Council's underhand dealings?

(copies of emails etc. can be viewed here: http://voicesofcolwynbay.blogspot.com/20... )

Please clarify the above two points and answer them fully - until such times as they are, this FOI request remains outstanding, and will be reported to the ICO as such.

Steve Hunt

Info Regs Unit/Uned.Rheol-Gwyb, Conwy County Borough Council

Unit FOI 965-09.

Dear Mr Hunt

To further clarify the points you refer to, you are advised that against Point 4 - The Authority made an initial commercial offer on the basis of predicted costs in failing to acquiring the property by agreement. Failure to acquire the property by agreement in the current financial year would have prejudiced the Authority's ability to acquire the property whilst grants were available from the WAG and could have lead to significantly increased costs to acquire later, and against Point 5 - The Council has not attempted to bribe anyone and therefore you have been advised that no information is held in relation to that part of your request.

If you are unhappy with this response you may appeal to the Information Commissioner's Office - Wales, Cambrian Buildings, Mount Stuart Square
Cardiff, CF10 5FL

Yours sincerely

David Smith
Corporate Information & Complaints Manager

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Dear Mr Smith,

Point 4:
So, let me see if I understand you correctly: in layman's terms, are you stating that the Council was prepared to pay around twice the current market value for 10, Douglas Road in 2009, as if the Council wanted to buy the property later on from whomever may have owned it in the future, it would have incurred considerable extra costs to the Council and/or the market value may have increased significantly? So the Council made what perhaps might be understood as a 'strategic purchase'?

Point 5:
I have copies of emails from your Gareth Peters to Arthur Jones offering him payment in the sum of £1,000 on condition (quote)
"* that no offer is made by you, or your family, for the property and that any previous offer is withdrawn
* that Conwy County Borough Council exchange contracts with the Vendor of the property
* that neither you or your family release any detail of our discussions between us or the sums being offered by any party to any third party"

That email was sent on the 16th October at 15:10 (timed at 16:10 on CCBC's mailserver) from the Council's mailserver named mailgate2.conwy.gov.uk at IP address 193.62.43.119 (which has been traced and confirmed back to CCBC)

SO, Mr Smith, do you deny that your Gareth Peters sent the email containing the above to Arthur Jones?

With regard to the word "Bribe", which I use advisedly, without malice or intent, I refer you to any standard English dictionary for the meaning - since you seem to be unfamiliar with it. The meaning of "Bribe" can be summarised thus: "anything (usually of value) given or serving to persuade or induce a persons behaviour or actions"

CCBC Offered Mr Jones £1,000 (IE something of value) in an attempt to influence the behaviour of himself and his family (IE that they should NOT make an offer on the property or release details of discussions between the parties - as seen in above in the email)

Please explain how you consider this DOES NOT perfectly fit the standard definition of "Bribe"

Yours lovingly at this festive time of year,

Steve Hunt

Info Regs Unit/Uned.Rheol-Gwyb, Conwy County Borough Council

Unit FOI 965-09.

Dear Mr Hunt

In the absence of Mr Smith who is now away until after Christmas you are advised that in relation to Point 4 - it is not accepted that £60k was the open market value and have no further comment to make. In relation to Point 5 - the Council has no further comment to make.

If you are unhappy with this response you may appeal to the
Information Commissioner's Office - Wales, Cambrian Buildings,
Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff, CF10 5FL

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Dear Conwy Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Conwy Council's handling of my FOI request 'Purchase of 10 Douglas Road, Colwyn Bay'.

Specifically, point 5 has NOT been answered. The Council is proven to have carried out the actions described, as proven by the emails in my possession, and now reported elsewhere in the media.

As set out in the Council's own constitution, the Council CANNOT embark on such a course of action without it either (A) being in line with existing Council Policy, or (B) there having been a meeting of the full Council to discuss and debate the course of action intended. In either case (A or B), the information I request must by Law be recorded in such a manner as is retrievable under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

The FOI request is perfectly legitimate and reasonable - I require a copy of the decision process used - which will either be a copy of the relevant part of the Council's established Policy or a copy of the minutes of the meeting of the full Council where it was debated and decided that the Council should attempt to bribe Mr Jones in the sum of £1,000 for him to withdraw his offer on the property and keep quiet about the pay-off.

My understanding of the Law is that the Council is NOT allowed to embark on a course of action in any other way (than A or B above) - if I am wrong, please do correct me and direct me to the relevant piece of legislation that covers the procedure the Council used? - plus provide a copy of any documents etc. that were used in whatever alternative procedure the Council used to determine it should attempt to bribe Mr Jones.

Somebody, somewhere, within Conwy County Borough Council DID decide to attempt to bribe Mr Jones, all I am trying to discover is under what directive this decision was made, or in the alternate that an individual autonomously made the decision outside of any official directive, who that person was.

In relation to point 4 of my request, whilst it may be true that £60,000 was not the market value, certainly the Council's offer of £119,000 was clearly considerably in excess of what could be considered by any reasonable person to be near to the true market value. In any case, you have failed to explain how the Council determined that £119,000 + costs was a reasonable sum of money for it to spend on the property, given it is clearly way in excess of the true market value.

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

Yours,

Steve Hunt

How much longer is this internal review going to take? - 10 weeks so far...

Steve Hunt

Info Regs Unit/Uned.Rheol-Gwyb, Conwy County Borough Council

1 Attachment

Unit FOI 965-09

Dear Mr Hunt

Please find attached outcome of the internal review carried out and sent
to you on the 5/1/2010.

As advised if you were unhappy with the response you should appeal to
the Information Commissioner's Office - Wales, Cambrian Buildings, Mount
Stuart Square Cardiff, CF10 5FL

Yours sincerely

David Smith
Corporate Information & Complaints Manager

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Steve Hunt left an annotation ()

All the liars sticking together... surprise, surprise

Mr Smith, as you continue to willfully break the law, I shall naturally be making yet another formal complaint to the Information Commissioner.

The information I seek MUST BY LAW exist and be recorded, and therefore MUST BY LAW be released under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

Steve Hunt

I am still waiting for this information, which you DO hold and MUST by law release.

Steve Hunt

Steve Hunt left an annotation ()

Now being investigated by the Information Commissioner. Case ref: FS50345709

Info Regs Unit/Uned.Rheol-Gwyb, Conwy County Borough Council

1 Attachment

Unit FOI 965-09

Dear Mr Hunt

Further to your enquiry dated 13/11/2009 you were advised that no
information was held in relation to the council attempting to bribe anyone
in relation to a property transaction, and it is emphasised that in that
context the situation remains unchanged.

After consultation with the ICO and after reconsidering the clarified part
of the request in your e-mail dated 18 December 2009 in which you
explained that this part of your request related to an offer which the
 Council had made to a 10 Douglas Road, Conwy the following information
is provided.

The council does hold information in the form of a sheet of A4 handwritten
notes of the officer concerned together with copies of four emails (see
attached). Discussions took place at informal meetings between
professional officers of the Council who are authorised to make such
decisions. Also attached is a copy of the Council Scheme of Delegation in
relation to Property Services at the time. In particular please see Point
4 - `To agree payment of compensation necessitated by a proposal approved
by Council, which will include all statutory claims emanating from
Compulsory Purchase Orders, and acquisitions of land by agreement' and
Point 11 - `Powers to deal with minor property transactions not covered by
the foregoing, up to a capital value of £5000......'

If you are not unhappy with the information provided, you have the right
to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision by
writing to the following address:

Information Commissioner's Office - Wales
Cambrian Buildings
Mount Stuart Square
Cardiff
CF10 5FL

Uned Reoliadau Gwybodaeth/Information Regulations Unit

Cyngor Bwrdeistef Sirol CONWY County Borough Council
E-Bost / E-Mail: [1][Conwy Council request email]

"Mae'r neges e-bost hon ac unrhyw ymgysylltiadau yn gyfrinachol, ac wedi
eu bwriadu ar gyfer yr un sy'n cael ei h/enwi yn unig. Gallent gynnwys
gwybodaeth freintiedig. Os yw'r neges hon wedi eich cyrraedd ar gam, ni
ddylech ei chopio, ei rhannu na dangos ei chynnwys i unrhyw un. Cysylltwch
efo Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Conwy ar unwaith. Nid yw'r Cyngor na'r un
sydd wedi anfon y neges yn derbyn unrhyw gyfrifoldeb am feirysau, a'ch
cyfrifoldeb chi yw sganio unrhyw ymgysylltiadau. Mae'r Awdurdod yn
monitro'r defnydd o e-bost/rhyngrwyd a chynnwys y rhain i ddibenion
busnes. " "This email and any attachments are confidential and intended
for the named recipient only. The content may contain privileged
information. If it has reached you by mistake, you should not copy,
distribute or show the content to anyone but should contact Conwy County
Borough Council at once. Neither the Council nor the sender accepts any
responsibility for viruses, and it is your responsibility to scan any
attachments. The Authority monitors e-mail/internet usage and content for
business purposes"

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Conwy Council request email]
mailto:[Conwy Council request email]

So you ADMIT you DID try to BRIBE mr Jones then with taxpayers money?

Regarding your reference to 'delegated powers' - this is irreleant in this case. For point 4 of those 'powers', the purchase of 10 Douglas Road was not subject to CPO, and for point 11, the capital value was well in excess of £5,000 limit.

I understand this matter has now been investigated by the Councils external auditors KPMG, who have found the council were WRONG to attempt to BRIBE a member or the public with taxpayers money.

I look forward to reading the full report by the Auditors when it is published.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Hunt

Info Regs Unit/Uned.Rheol-Gwyb, Conwy County Borough Council

Diolch am eich neges e-bost.
Os ydych yn gofyn am fynediad at wybodaeth dan delerau Deddf Rhyddid
Gwybodaeth 2000 cewch ymateb o fewn ugain niwrnod gwaith.

Thank you for your email.
If you are requesting access to information under the terms of the Freedom
of Information Act 2000 you will receive a response within twenty working
days.

Uned Reoliadau Gwybodaeth/Information Regulations Unit
Cyngor Bwrdeistef Sirol CONWY County Borough Counci
E-Bost/E-Mail; [Conwy Council request email]

"Mae'r neges e-bost hon ac unrhyw ymgysylltiadau yn gyfrinachol, ac wedi
eu bwriadu ar gyfer yr un sy'n cael ei h/enwi yn unig. Gallent gynnwys
gwybodaeth freintiedig. Os yw'r neges hon wedi eich cyrraedd ar gam, ni
ddylech ei chopio, ei rhannu na dangos ei chynnwys i unrhyw un. Cysylltwch
efo Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Conwy ar unwaith. Nid yw'r Cyngor na'r un
sydd wedi anfon y neges yn derbyn unrhyw gyfrifoldeb am feirysau, a'ch
cyfrifoldeb chi yw sganio unrhyw ymgysylltiadau. Mae'r Awdurdod yn
monitro'r defnydd o e-bost/rhyngrwyd a chynnwys y rhain i ddibenion
busnes. " "This email and any attachments are confidential and intended
for the named recipient only. The content may contain privileged
information. If it has reached you by mistake, you should not copy,
distribute or show the content to anyone but should contact Conwy County
Borough Council at once. Neither the Council nor the sender accepts any
responsibility for viruses, and it is your responsibility to scan any
attachments. The Authority monitors e-mail/internet usage and content for
business purposes"

Steve Hunt left an annotation ()

Automated replies do not constitute a response.