Friday, 8 February 2013

Public Toilets - still top secret

I had a slightly delayed response the other day to my recent Freedom of Information request for three 'exempt' reports. 
I asked for the 'Public Convenience Transfer Position', 'Cross Hands West Development' and the report leading to a £20,000 grant to the new Odeon in Llanelli ('Costa Fortune').
The full, mixed response can be seen here.

The remaining thirty or so public toilets (apart from the Danfo 20p-a-go ones under contract) are being offloaded or 'transferred' onto Town and Community Councils with a small cash contribution for some paint and minor repairs. The council wants to save £90,000 a year. If they're not taken over by April, they're closing which doesn't auger well for the tourist season.

Why details of the transfer of public toilets from County to Town/Community Councils should be considered behind closed doors has been a source of puzzlement to local bloggers for some time. There has been much discussion in council meetings (hours in fact) and the matter has been rumbling on for over a year. However, my request was refused.

The constipated refusal concludes with the 'public interest test';

"I accept that there is always likely to be a public interest in information concerning publicly owned property and the expenditure of public funds. 
Nevertheless, in this case, there is in my view a stronger, countervailing public interest in ensuring that the Council is able to complete transactions in private, up to the point that agreements are concluded. This in turn ensures best value for the taxpayer, which is clearly in the public interest."

So decisions on public buildings, between two public bodies with the use of public funds is considered suitable for 'exemption' and will protect the taxpayer. Dear me. And it's toilets for goodness sake.

Incidentally, although the report regarding the £20,000 to the Odeon was released, I can still see no reason why a £2bn global company couldn't manage without it.


Cneifiwr said...

If and when FOI is next reformed, one obvious candidate would be to stop public bodies from concealing deals with other public bodies.

The main reason why they are so cagey about the toilets, I suspect, is that the council has given a masterclass in incompetent management. Nice that they can conceal their embarrassment.

caebrwyn said...

@Cneifiwr I suspect you are spot on.

The Odeon report, oddly, reads like a fine example of waffle from the council press office.

Jack Old Oak said...

If the county council wishes to hand the responsibility for public toilets over to town and community councils, then perhaps they will also give the responsibility of running public car parks to them together with the revenue earned from the car parks and this revenue would allow these smaller authorities to run both toilets and car parks more successfully (particularly with regard to cleanliness and hygene of the toilets). Then, hopefully, service to the public will be much improved...

Mrs Angry said...

To be fair, we all like to close the door when we are transfering our position in a public convenience, Mrs Evans. Well, we ladies, anyway. Nothing worse than being caught with undergarments round the ankles,either in the convenience or the committee room, and I am not sure which is more likely, come to think of it ...

Anonymous said...

what grounds under schedule 12A of the local government act 1972 did the council use for concealing a report?

you may not be entitled to copies of contracts ect but you are entitled to the report to the council/cabinet [by law]

if there is a legal dispute or financial deatils of a private individual eg section 16 & 14 otherwise there is no ground for non-disclosure.

Anonymous said...

sorry just read the response on whatdotheyknow.

as this appears to be a joint venture and disposal of land - what procedures did the council follow for tendering/advertising the sale of publicly owned land to secure the best price [as required by law].

what does the council copnstitutuion say about the sale of council owned land withgout a tender/advert. If none of these procurement/advert procedures were not followed - something may stink or even really stink - and the Wales Audit Office should be notified before a transfer/sale takes place.

sometimes development agreements need to be not disclosed so their refusal may be right - but the steps before regarding decision making to sell and advertise or not is not right and contrary to law as it may be the best price or transaction may not have been obtained.