Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 4, 2017

Playing Fast And Loose With Freedom Of Information

While Edge Hill University edgepic is accused of being among the ‘least transparent’ universities in the UK by its failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, just a short distance away the West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC) has blatantly changed a formal Freedom of Information statement of fact into a “did not provide sufficient clarity” admission that changed the original answer to an imprecise lack of transparency.

The University and College Union (UCU) damned Edge Hill for “continually ignoring its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act”, declared it to be “something of a serial offender” and sent its complaint to the Information Commissioner and asked that the University completes its duty and replies to their request for information about senior pay and perks.

The WLBC wlbclogo case relates to the vexed subject of Beacon Park Golf Course landfill “royalties” which are the crumbs left on the table from the landfill fees received by any one of the WLBC associates in the golf course fiasco, West Lancashire Community Leisure Ltd, Oakland Golf & Leisure Limited, and Serco Leisure Operating Limited, now announced by WLBC as “the management agents of/for the contract and the royalties are paid to them”.

The scene was set out clearly in two Freedom of Information responses from a senior WLBC officer in August 2015 that “The royalties…are paid to West Lancashire Community Leisure” westcomleis, stated quite definitively, no FoI obfuscation at this stage. But as stated in public at the West Lancashire Community Leisure Ltd AGM in June 2016 no royalties were included in the Trust accounts. How could they be, they were in the Serco Leisure Operating Limited accounts, as admitted and witnessed in the meeting.

This information might infer some strange accounting practices exist between the three, hardly likely but then again we do know all about the UK Sports Parks Ltd dissolution don’t we?

And now we do recognise some obfuscation, some obscurity that changed the fast and loose game. As now claimed by WLBC “My conclusion is that the information provided in August 2015 was not sufficiently precise and that the background information, provided by way of context, did not provide sufficient clarity as to the contractual relationships involved”. In other words, WLBC was wrong to state in 2015 what it did under FoI but didn’t realise it would be caught out in 2016 and called to account for it in 2017.

Just a few words “The royalties…are paid to West Lancashire Community Leisure” and the reputation of WLBC is open to question. Not to worry, the Information Commissioner will clarify it all in due course.

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