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The Piece Hall Trust Business Plan

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Calderdale Against Corruption

Dear Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council,

Can you please supply us with a copy of all business plans which The Piece Hall Trust submitted to you in respect to their ambition to run the Piece Hall?

Yours faithfully,

Calderdale Against Corruption

Suzanne Prescott, Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council

2 Attachments

Dear Sirs

 

Please find attached our acknowledgement of receipt of your request.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Suzanne Prescott

Principal Governance Support Officer

Legal and Democratic Services

Chief Executive’s Office

Calderdale Council

Town Hall

Halifax HX1 1UN

 

01422 822297

Email: [1][email address]

[2]CMBC logo

 

 

 

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Suzanne Prescott, Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council

2 Attachments

Dear Sirs

 

Please find attached our response to your recent request.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Suzanne Prescott

Suzanne Prescott

Principal Governance Support Officer

Information Governance Team

Legal and Democratic Services

Town Hall, Crossley Street, HALIFAX, HX1 1UJ

 

Tel: 01422 392297

Email: [email address]

 

 

 

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Calderdale Against Corruption

Dear Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council,

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

We are writing to request an internal review of Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of our FOI request 'The Piece Hall Trust Business Plan'.

You have claimed various exemptions to avoid releasing the information requested, however, we reject those attempts at claiming exemptions and have detailed the reasons why those exemptions do not apply in this case, and why the information should be released without further delay to an already overdue request, which is in breach of the legislation and will be subject to further action if the information requested is not provided in a prompt manner.

Section 40(2) Exemption Claimed

We feel that the information you claim is “personal information” is not personal information in the context of the Data Protection Act 2018 and the business plan.

We therefore ask you to reconsider this claim for exemption as we feel it is erroneous.

In any case, the Freedom of Information Act, along with Best Practice guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office, permits for the requested information to be released in a format in which any personal information can be redacted or removed as necessary.

If the Section 40(2) exemption is still claimed by CMBC, then we request that the salary information you claim is “personal information” is simply redacted or removed so that it does not interfere with our right to obtain the information requested.

Section 43 Exemption Claimed

We feel that the cited reasons for claiming this exemption are unwarranted and, in some cases, the information you claim is favour of warranting the exemption is actually already publicly available.

We have covered each point you have assessed and offered a counter-argument to each where necessary.

1a) Calderdale Against Corruption is an independent, non-commercial group of people who are dedicated to transparency from public authorities. Our FOI history clearly documents the fact that we seek such transparency, and we suggest that applying the “reasonable person” legal test would determine that our organisation is not a competitor, nor do we seek any “commercial advantage”.

As such, we reject your excuse for exemption on this count.

1b) The “financial information” relating to salaries could easily be redacted or removed if it really does constitute “commercially sensitive information”. In any case, the salary data of many jobs at the Piece Hall Trust have already been publicised in various job advertisements published by The Piece Hall Trust themselves, such as this vacancy which was available in September 2019 - https://uk.jora.com/job/Head-of-Faciliti...

The excuse that a competitor could gain an advantage is ridiculous because most salaries for the various vacancies have already been published, and any competitor will already know the estimated salary range which any job at the Piece Hall would attract.

As such, we reject your excuse for exemption on this count. If you insist this excuse is a valid reason for refusing the request then we contend that you should release the requested information and redact or remove any salary information.

1c) The excuse of not releasing the business plan due to it containing “rental details” is downright preposterous and completely unacceptable.

The rental information is readily available by direct enquiry to the Piece Hall on [email address] (https://www.thepiecehall.co.uk/to-let), and any professional commercial letting agent worth their salt knows how much rent per square foot a commercial unit is likely to command.
As such, we reject your excuse for exemption on this count.

1d) We feel that this excuse is a weak contention as The Piece Hall Trust consistently market the Piece Hall as an “absolutely unique” attraction and is “Yorkshire’s most important secular building” (https://www.thepiecehall.co.uk/heritage).

Considering the Trust’s position in marketing the Piece Hall as “absolutely unique” and “Yorkshire’s most important secular building”, we reject the excuse that visitors will be lured away to other presumably less important and less unique buildings because we assume that the Trust has already implemented the vast majority of their best ideas, which were presumably contained within the business plan.

The Trust has had almost 3 years to implement their business plan, and, presumably, the schemes devised to attract visitors were contained within the business plan and, considering that the Trust has already implemented the vast majority of these schemes, they are therefore already public knowledge and available to “managers of historical assets in competition with the Piece Hall Trust”.

As such, we reject your excuse for exemption on this count.

1e) Business plans are indeed time consuming and require a relatively modest amount of effort to compile, however, most businesses already possess the skill and expertise required to create effective business plans, especially businesses which would be able to compete with the Piece Hall.

As such, we reject your excuse for exemption on this count as business plans are routinely created and there is already a wealth of high-level information relating to how to create business plans.

2) CMBC spent at least £12 million of public money to renovate the Piece Hall, and committed to funding The Piece Hall Trust with at least a further £3 million of public money over the first few years of operation. CMBC also rent the Piece Hall to The Piece Hall Trust for a “peppercorn rent”, i.e. a token amount of rent significantly below its actual commercial rent value.

Bearing the above information in mind, we feel that the initial and ongoing spending of public money on the Piece Hall, coupled with the astronomical losses incurred by The Piece Hall Trust in just two years of operation, warrants the release of The Piece Hall Trust’s business plan because it is in the public interest to understand the reasons why CMBC opted to choose The Piece Hall Trust as the organisation to run the Piece Hall.

The business plan will help the public understand why CMBC opted to select an organisation which, presumably, detailed in their business plan that there would be significant financial losses of almost £1 million for at least the first two years of operation, and why these losses would occur.

Releasing the business plan will also help the public understand why the business plan CMBC submitted to secure lottery funding detailed relatively modest losses in Year 1 and posted ongoing profit from Year 2 onwards, which fundamentally contradicts the actual losses posted by The Piece Hall Trust.

We would like to remind you that the Freedom of Information Act was enacted to promote transparency in government and public authorities, and we feel that it is in the public interest to release The Piece Hall Trust’s business plan due to the fact that CMBC have essentially rented the Piece Hall to the Trust for well below its commercial value and have spent multiple millions of local money subsidising the Trust.
The public interest in this matter greatly outweighs any concerns over the working relationship with the Trust, and we are sure that the Trust will understand the public interest and concern at the fact that the Piece Hall is losing almost £1 million per annum and we are not being told how the Trust intends to stop these losses or actually make profit.

Another important factor in the public interest is that if the Trust submitted a business plan which did not anticipate such massive losses, then surely CMBC should cut the losses and find another organisation which is capable of making the Piece Hall profitable, and one which will not lose multiple millions of local, public money?

As such, we reject your excuse for exemption on this count.

3) We contend that most of the excuses given under the Section 43 exemption are already “less sensitive” due to the time that has elapsed between the Piece Hall opening and the present date, as detailed above, with the possible exception of salary data, which can be redacted or removed without affecting the release of the other information contained in the business plan.

As such, we reject your excuse for exemption on this count.

Considering the above rebuttals of the excuses given to claim exemption under Section 43, we feel that the public interest does indeed outweigh the need to disclose the requested documents, and we expect that the requested documents will be released without further delay.

In anticipation of you still claiming such exemptions, and pending any referral to the ICO, if you feel such exemptions still apply then we request that you redact or remove the “personal data” pertaining to salaries, and the “commercially sensitive data” you claim exemption for, especially considering the public interest in this matter.

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

Yours faithfully,

Calderdale Against Corruption

Suzanne Prescott, Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council

3 Attachments

Dear Sirs

 

Please Find attached our acknowledgement of receipt of your request.

Yours sincerely

 

 

Suzanne Prescott

Principal Governance Support Officer

Legal and Democratic Services

Chief Executive’s Office

Calderdale Council

Town Hall

Halifax HX1 1UN

 

01422 822297

Email: [1][email address]

[2]CMBC logo

 

[3]Coronavirus

 

 

 

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Tracie Robinson, Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Please find attached my response to your recent request.

 

Regards

Tracie

 

Tracie Robinson LLM, LLB (Hons), A.Inst.L.Ex, MInstLM

Corporate Governance Manager (SIRO and DPO) - Team Leader

Calderdale Council

Legal and Democratic Services (Governance and Archive)

Unit 1 Springwood Business Park

Burrwood Way

Holywell Green

Halifax

HX4 9BH

 

(Tel:     01422 39 (2298) or 07872 100567

7 Fax:     01422 393073
* Email:  [1][email address]

* Secure Email:  [2][email address]

 

This email and any attachments may be confidential. If you have received
it in error – notify the sender immediately, delete it from your system,
and do not use, copy or disclose the information in any way. Calderdale
Council monitors all emails sent or received.

 

 

 

 

 

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We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Calderdale Against Corruption please sign in and let everyone know.