Information Commissioner v East Devon District Council – report on afternoon session

The report below has kindly been provided by Sandra Semple, an EDA member, who agreed to attend the whole First Tier Tribunal Meeting of Information Commissioner v. EDDC. This is her personal report, does not necessarily represent the views of other EDA members and is given as a layperson with no legal training. Comments are not necessarily in the order taken but provide an overview.

Information Commissioner v East Devon District Council

Afternoon session

Although it had been anticipated that the closed session would last from 2 pm to 3 pm it lasted from 2 pm to 5 pm.

The Chairman said that he would not be able to finalise the case today because 7 matters were outstanding. These related to Environmental Impact Regulations 2004 sections 12.5 (b) and 12.5 (e).

I may have missed some essential information as the Chairman went very quickly here, so this is notes only.

  1. Confidential discussions on sites – the Information Commissioner had a neutral position.
  2. Actual and potential costs what had potential contractors said: one had said they did not want their information revealed, others said that they preferred it not to be revealed. The Council maintained that it risked losing the trust of contractors if information was disclosed, it would prejudice their interests and given them a weaker argument in tenders. The Information Commissioner opposed this stance and further submissions were needed.
  3. Legal advice with 2 concerns (1) it might affect members freedom to act (2) it would disadvantage the council with further objections – further submissions.
  4. Legal advice to the council – some agreed redactions between Information Commissioner and council which were helpful, (one less issued).
  5. Legal advice again – same issue – the Information Commissioner opposed the council’s position.
  6. Confidential information negotiations – accepted in part/opposed in others – further submissions needed.
  7. 12 (4) EIA: council asked about document issue sheets and contents re sign off – appendices in public domain read like DL – council says substance not undermined, clarification.

Council now has 7 days to provide further and final evidence on this matters as the Chairman said he wanted the examination to be complete, exhaustive and thorough.

The Information Commissioner and Mr Woodward would also be free to provide further evidence as they thought fit.

It was agreed that after the 7 days, Information Commissioner counsel and EDDC Council counsel would suggested dates for further examination with a timetable. The Tribunal will meet again at a date to be decided and, following that meeting, will give its decision (hopefully) within 2-3 weeks