Thursday, 25 July 2013

FOI News - Business Management Group minutes - further delay

Way back in the spring, April 14th to be exact, I made a Freedom of Information request for minutes of Business Management Group meetings from 2011. My earlier post here, has all the background (scroll down a bit, as the first part concerns my ongoing request for correspondence between the council and the Towy Community Church).

Basically the BMG is a group of senior officers and party elite (it doesn't include unaffiliated Members but does include Pam Palmer the leader of the incongruously titled 'independent group'). The group meets and gives 'recommendations' to the Executive Board, these recommendations have never been known to be rejected. Agendas and minutes are not routinely published.

The group doesn't feature on the 'organisational structure' of the council either, yet it is clearly a formal stage in the cloudy decision making process. The disclosure of minutes will assist in a greater public understanding of how decisions are reached.

I asked for an update in June and was told that it was a 'difficult and complex' request and it was 'necessary to consider whether a wide range of exemptions apply to the requested information and, if they do, whether disclosure would still be in the public interest. That process is still ongoing in this case.' Fair enough.

The latest update, received yesterday, says that whilst the officers have now put their tuppence worth in, 'it has been considered necessary to consult with the members of the Business Management Group before a final decision can be made.'

That doesn't seem quite right. Exemption, or for that matter, disclosure, is a regulated, and legislated process under the FoI Act with public interest tests and ICO guidance to be considered. Or at least I thought it was. Asking Kevin Madge, Pam Palmer etc what they think about it doesn't seem to quite fit in with all that....

....and they haven't even asked the opinion of the Press Office yet either...

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