Monday, 23 January 2012

Cwm Environmental - final response

I had another response to my further FoI enquiries to Cwm Environmental ltd, the company owned by Carmarthenshire Council to handle their waste management strategy, see here; 

it raises a couple of interesting points;
As this company is owned (not just contracted) by the council, should it not be subject to the same FoI legislation as a public body? Apparently not according to the Director. As councils continue to outsource public services to private companies the issue of FoI compliance is becoming a national issue. This company, as I have said, is owned by the council.

I asked further about any 'interests' recorded against the directors (see my earlier post here) - again they seem to have different rules (although, according to the Constitution, Carmarthenshire Council officers' declarations are on a 'voluntary' basis too - but failure to declare should, potentially I assume, carry stiffer penalties - but that's another story), and what is more worrying is the inference that my request was somehow vexatious.

As for the quoted discrepancy regarding the funding to community groups, as I suspected, the explanation is that the £270,000+ per year (rather than £1433 initially quoted) relates to the Landfill Tax administered by GrantScape and Entrust. 6% of this tax, generated by the company, can be donated for the purposes of positive publicity (it's good too, of course for the community groups but 'publicity' is mentioned in the response). The identities of the organisations who were unsuccessful in these charity bids are exempt, I am told, through the Data Protection Act.

update; well, it wasn't quite the final word as I am aware that the Council own 51% of the company so I have now asked, (prompted by a tweeter) who owns the other 49%. Incidentally the highest paid Director of Cwm earns £101,000 pa.
For background, this first came to my attention a couple of years ago when Cwm acquired a loan of £400,000 from the council towards the cost of 20 acres of land around the recycling centre, the total cost was £650,000 which seemed to me a bit steep. Another issue which was raised was the lack of council representation on the Board, it was deemed that an ex-council officer would suffice.

update 24th Jan; Cwm inform me that there are no other shareholders, Carmarthenshire Council hold 100%. I have a copy of the accounts now so will be having a look through. So, if the council hold 100%, why isn't Cwm treated as a public sector organisation - it means we, the taxpayers are the owners - don't we have a say in all this?


Nospin said...

These "wholly owned" companies worry me, they are not competitive,or competed with.

We have a council set up a waste company as well, it is a registered charity and employs ex prisoners to help them rehabilitate.

Problem is they have their own directors, management staff and administrators, many of these functions could and would have been shared by other council employees, how can this be cheaper.

Gain to the council is they are paid out of the purchasing budget not employment budget so they can claim to have reduced the number of employees.

If you are a private individual and self employed with one major customer the taxman does not accept that as self employed, shouldn't there be something along the same lines for these pretend private companies.

Cneifiwr said...

The response from Mr Rees gave me the best laugh I've had today. CWM would like to oblige under the FOI act, but it does not want questions which are "inquisitive or commercial" in nature.

Since questions are, by their nature, inquisitive, it seems they don't want any questions.

And since we are talking about a company (albeit a legalised monopoly), the vast majority of pertinent questions are likely to be commercial.