Cheshire East refuses Freedom of Information request

We asked Cheshire East for copies of the contract between the council and the developers and for information on the legal and financial risk assessments relating to the development. They said no. We have now sent a further letter countering each of the reasons they gave for refusing the information.  We believe the Freedom of Information Act is on our side as it is clear that the public interest is not being served by the council withholding the information.  We will take the matter to the Information Commissioner if the council do not give us the information we have asked for.

We have issued a press release, as follows:

Cheshire East Refuses Wake Up Macclesfield Freedom of Information Request

 Cheshire East Council have refused a request made by the Wake up Macclesfield campaign group for information relating to the agreement between the council and their town centre redevelopment partner, Wilson Bowden.

The information requested by the campaign included details of the contract between the council and the developers; minutes from the meeting at which the latest contract was agreed, and a copy of the financial, legal and risk assessment relating to the development.

In their response to the request, Cheshire East gave a number of reasons for refusing information.  These reasons include that circulation has been restricted on ‘a need to know basis’ in order that  “decision makers can have a free and frank debate on detailed proposals for the potential courses of action open to them” and that “if the contract were to be  revealed to the public, the Council would be adversely affected in that there are prospects of third parties bringing legal proceedings having knowledge of  the potential opportunities for challenge referred to in the contract, given that the development and its use are controversial.” Cheshire East also state that if they reveal details of the contract, they would be at risk of legal action.

Wake up Macclesfield spokesperson Beverley Moore commented:  “We understand that when public funds are involved, the law supports the release of contract information after negotiations have been concluded as there is a strong public interest in demonstrating transparency, accountability, and value for money. We would expect any contract to include clauses protecting the council from legal action should information be legitimately requested by the public. It’s also clearly in the public interest for local people to have access to the facts upon which councillors based such an important decision, and to know the risks Cheshire East are taking with public money.  We will be responding to the council, and, if we do not get the information we are asking for, will take the case to the Information Commissioner.”

 

 

 

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