Shidas Lane site remediation fund for tax haven company owned site

The request was partially successful.

Dear West Midlands Combined Authority,

I am writing to make an open government request for all the information to which I am entitled under the freedom of information act and the environmental information regulations.
In order to assist you with this request, I am outlining my query as specifically as possible.
If however this request is too wide or too 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.

Land registry documents for titles WM642888 Land lying to the North side of Shidas Lane Oldbury and WM688412 show that this site is owned and has been since 10/9/2003 by a firm known as "Cleeve Investments Limited" registered in Jersey on 17/1/2003. This site was a former historic landfill site containing an infilled former Accles and Pollock acid waste lagoon, with "inert materials", to which no one appears to know of what type- least of all in any planning applications associated with the site.

I refer to the following link

Agenda for Investment Board on Monday 11th November 2019, 10.00 am :WMCA
https://governance.wmca.org.uk/ieListDoc...

At minute 70.
Proposed Investment at Shidas Lane, Oldbury (Stoford Properties Ltd.) it is stated that "West Midlands Development Capital presented a report that sought grant funding from the WMCA’s Brownfield Land Property Development Fund to fund remediate the ground conditions at the property to deliver either a 115,000 square foot industrial unit (Option A) or, a 55,000 square foot purpose built Ambulance Hub (Option B); the scheme which would be delivered would be dependent on progress made with the pre-let of the Ambulance Hub and if not success, then the industrial unit would be built speculatively.

Resolved: That a maximum allocation of grant funding as set out in the report from the Brownfield Land and Property Development Fund to fund remediation costs at Shidas Lagoon, Rounds Green Road, Oldbury to deliver the development at the site, as referred to above, subject to the conditions detailed in the report be approved."

(i)Please supply this report presented at this meeting in full.
(ii) Disclose how much public money from the remediation fund was approved for this Jersey owned site, (noting WMCA Mayor Andy Street's previous outspoken comments concerning funding for tax haven registered companies).
(iii) Disclose if "Cleeve Investments Limited" were involved in anyway with this application.
(iv)Please provide the application for funding for this site, from WMCA’s Brownfield Land & Property Development Fund.
(v)Please provide the WMCA’s approved assurance framework for this type of funding.

I understand that under the act, I should be entitled to a response within 20 working days. I would be grateful if you could confirm that you have received this request. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future via the what do they know website address.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Carroll

Informationofficer, West Midlands Combined Authority

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. This is an automated response to acknowledge that your email has been received.
If this is an initial request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, we will respond to your request within 20 working days. Should your email be received outside of normal office working hours, then 20 day period will begin from the next working day.
Should we need further clarification regarding your request we will contact you as soon as possible.
Regards
Information Officer
Website: www.wmca.org.uk<http://www.wmca.org.uk>
16 Summer Lane. Birmingham, B19 3SD
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Informationofficer, West Midlands Combined Authority

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Carroll

 

Further to your request for information please find attached our response.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Information Governance

West Midlands Combined Authority

 

Website: [1]www.wmca.org.uk

16 Summer Lane, Birmingham, B19 3SD

 

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Dear West Midlands Combined Authority,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of West Midlands Combined Authority's handling of my FOI request 'Shidas Lane site remediation fund for tax haven company owned site'.
You have stated that you rely on Section 12(5)(e) for non disclosure of information that it is known that you hold, which states
12.—(5) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a), a public authority may refuse to disclose information to the extent that its disclosure would adversely affect—
(e) the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information where such confidentiality is provided by
law to protect a legitimate economic interest.

What you have failed to state however is that this is a qualified exemption under EIR, and that you have also failed to conduct a public interest test to determine if the benefits of non disclosure outweigh those of disclosure. I believe that they do not, set out in regulation 12(1)(b).
Regulation 12(2) also specifically states that a public authority shall apply a presumption in favour of disclosure.

Under this qualified exemption 12 (5) E which you are using, four tests must be applied according to the ICO, these being
.The information is commercial or industrial in nature.
• Confidentiality is provided by law.
• The confidentiality is protecting a legitimate economic interest.
• The confidentiality would be adversely affected by disclosure.

Crucially, in order to engage this exemption, all four tests must be met, and I do not believe that they are, and in any case you have failed to state in the response how they are.

In the Internal review I would expect you to explain how you are relying on this exemption as the ICO guidance states, in this regard.

This information (the report which I refer to in part (i) is not in the public domain currently, but it is known that you hold it, and also that it was complete at the time it was presented, This also goes for the application for funding which i refer to in part (iv).

I do not consider companies registered in Jersey to have a "legitimate" economic interest in the UK, and the public should have confidence that a surrogate applicant is not being used to illicit UK tax payers money for a site remediation money tree. Indeed, I believe this to be morally bankrupt and a disgusting loophole which needs to be closed if this is the case. It is in the public interest to uncover such failings in the system if they exist. I also have concerns that the owners registered in Jersey, and who operate through solicitors in Manchester are not unconnected to the entity which infilled the former lagoon with "inert waste" , meaning that after many years of doing nothing with the site, a funding opportunity to sell it off comes about through remediation they should have paid for themselves before creating a mountain.

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

Yours faithfully,

Mr Carroll

Informationofficer, West Midlands Combined Authority

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. This is an automated response to acknowledge that your email has been received.
If this is an initial request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, we will respond to your request within 20 working days. Should your email be received outside of normal office working hours, then 20 day period will begin from the next working day.
Should we need further clarification regarding your request we will contact you as soon as possible.
Regards
Information Officer
Website: www.wmca.org.uk<http://www.wmca.org.uk>
16 Summer Lane. Birmingham, B19 3SD
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Dear West Midlands Combined Authority,

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

I am writing to remind you that my request for an internal review of West Midlands Combined Authority's handling of my FOI request 'Shidas Lane site remediation fund for tax haven company owned site' has not yet been answered. Please give me a time frame for conducting this review which is now overdue.

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

Yours faithfully,

Mr Carroll

Informationofficer, West Midlands Combined Authority

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. This is an automated response to acknowledge that your email has been received.
If this is an initial request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, we will respond to your request within 20 working days. Should your email be received outside of normal office working hours, then 20 day period will begin from the next working day.
Should we need further clarification regarding your request we will contact you as soon as possible.
Regards
Information Officer
Website: www.wmca.org.uk<http://www.wmca.org.uk>
16 Summer Lane. Birmingham, B19 3SD
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Mr Carroll left an annotation ()

Complaint made to ICO for failure to conduct an internal review.

Mr Carroll left an annotation ()

ICO gives West Midands Combined Authority 10 days to conduct internal review, that they have failed to do. Judging by the number of failed requests by this authority to answer FOI/EIR requests on WDTK, I think the ICO should be monitoring the administration behind it.

Mr Carroll left an annotation ()

This authority have failed to conduct an internal review, despite being contacted to do so by the ICO. They appear to be a failed authority as evidenced by other requests made and not answered on WDTK. Will be bringing this to the attention of the ICO.

Mr Carroll left an annotation ()

ICO DECISION NOTICE
Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)
Decision notice
Date: 10 November 2021

" 1. The complainant has requested information from West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) relating to the development of a specific site.
2. The Commissioner’s decision is that WMCA has failed to carry out a reconsideration (internal review) of a response it provided, under the Environmental Information Regulations (“the EIR”), within 40 working days and has therefore breached regulation 11 of the EIR.
3. The Commissioner requires WMCA to take the following steps to ensure compliance with the legislation.
• Reconsider how it responded to the original request and inform the complainant of the outcome of that reconsideration in accordance with regulation 11 of the EIR.
4. WMCA must take these steps within 35 calendar days of the date of this decision notice. Failure to comply may result in the Commissioner making written certification of this fact to the High Court pursuant to section 54 of the Freedom of Information Act and may be dealt with as a
contempt of court. "

Mr Carroll left an annotation ()

Link to ICO decision notice. They have still to respond.

https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...

Dear West Midlands Combined Authority,
You have once again failed to deal with my request, as instructed by the ICO. I will be writing to them again so that legal action against your authority will be taken in failing to oblige FOI laws.

https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...

Yours faithfully,

Mr Carroll

Informationofficer, West Midlands Combined Authority

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. This is an automated response to acknowledge that your email has been received.
If this is an initial request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, we will respond to your request within 20 working days. Should your email be received outside of normal office working hours, then 20 day period will begin from the next working day.
Should we need further clarification regarding your request we will contact you as soon as possible.
Regards
Information Officer
Website: www.wmca.org.uk<http://www.wmca.org.uk>
16 Summer Lane. Birmingham, B19 3SD
Please consider the environment before printing this email

Informationofficer, West Midlands Combined Authority

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Carroll

 

Please find attached our response to your request seeking an internal
review. It has taken slightly longer than anticipated to complete this
review, for which we apologise.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Information Governance

West Midlands Combined Authority

 

Website: www.wmca.org.uk

16 Summer Lane, Birmingham, B19 3SD

 

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and do not necessarily represent those of the company.

show quoted sections

Informationofficer, West Midlands Combined Authority

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Carroll

Further to your below request for information regarding Shidas Lane,
Oldbury. You will recall that at the time of making this request we were
unable to provide you with a report presented to the Investment Board on
Monday 11th November 2019. The position has now changed, and we are now
able to provide you a copy of the report. Please find attached.

The report contains some financial information relating to the developer
and how they will make the development viable. Funding from the Brownfield
Land Property Development Fund is available to all developers provided
funding criteria can be met. This is a competitive process with developers
sharing confidential commercially sensitive information, which if
disclosed may provide competitors with an advantage when competing for
future projects. Equally any financial information that may result in
providing our financial rationale for developing brownfield land may
result in a unfair advantage to bidders of grant funding. This could have
an impact on getting the best value for money when using the public purse
to support the regeneration of brownfield land.  For these reasons the
attached report is subject to some minor redaction. We have considered the
public interest in applying this redaction, and concluded it is right to
protect the confidentiality of this commercially sensitive information.

Please note the Brownfield Land and Property Development Fund  (BLPDF) and
other funds managed by West Midlands Development Capital (WMDC) are
administered on a Continuous Market Engagement basis.  There is no
application form for the BLPDF.  Enquiries are encouraged at any time when
and where development is planned on brownfield land.  The WMDC team meet
with prospective Developers to discuss the need for a grant and structure
a potential financial solution if appropriate.  Once the WMDC team have
satisfied themselves that the requirement is supported by facts and their
assessment is that a grant is a recommended outcome, they produce a report
which is submitted through a WMCA decision making process culminating at
Investment Board.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Information Goverance

 

 

This message (and any associated files) is intended only for the use of
the individual or entity to which it is addressed and may contain
information that is confidential, subject to copyright or constitutes a
trade secret. If you are not the intended recipient you are hereby
notified that any dissemination, copying or distribution of this message,
or files associated with this message, is strictly prohibited. If you have
received this message in error, please notify us immediately by replying
to the message and deleting it from your computer. Messages sent to and
from us may be monitored.

 

Internet communications cannot be guaranteed to be secure or error-free as
information could be intercepted, corrupted, lost, destroyed, arrive late
or incomplete, or contain viruses. Therefore, we do not accept
responsibility for any errors or omissions that are present in this
message, or any attachment, that have arisen as a result of e-mail
transmission. If verification is required, please request a hard-copy
version. Any views or opinions presented are solely those of the author
and do not necessarily represent those of the company.

 

show quoted sections

Mr Carroll left an annotation ()

I had to chase this request repeatedly with the ICO, who also took a ridiculous amount of time to even allocate and investigate it. Also noted is that the WMCA ignored a decision notice requesting them to reply, and their responses to FOI via what do they know are evidentially very poor indeed.