You may just about remember that, quite a few months ago, the Eye submitted a formal Freedom of Information Act request to the borough council. The request asked for a copy of the procedures and posts involved in making ANY financial award to ANY council chief executive. The council decided not to provide the information; the Eye asked the council to carry out a review of its decision, and the review changed nothing. After which, the Eye submitted a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Last week, the ICO wrote to the Eye:
“I can confirm that I allowed the Council an additional 10 working days for preparing its response to my enquiries because of the Christmas break. I am expecting its response to be with me by the end of this week.
“Presuming it does not revise its position and disclose what you have requested, I will then proceed to a decision notice based on that response. If I have any further queries at that stage I will contact you again.
“If the Council fails to respond within the extended time period then I may need to issue an Information Notice under section 51 of the FOIA formally requiring a response. If this is necessary then I will let you know”
Of course, we can understand why a nervous council that hates openness would want to stay stum while its chief executive is on extended (AKA ‘agreed’ or ‘special’) leave. But official procedures – or lack thereof – are discoverable facts. For the council to be suppressing the facts destroys what little credibility it has left. Or perhaps it has none already, so that it has nothing to lose?