“Exeter City Council’s appeal against the Information Commissioner’s decision that it should publish details of the business case for the controversial St Sidwell’s Point leisure complex on the current bus station site will be heard by an Information Tribunal.
Exeter resident Peter Cleasby used the Freedom of Information Act to ask the Council to release details of the business case for the development so that the assumptions contained in it – particularly about the running costs – could be open to wider scrutiny before contracts were signed.
The Council refused on grounds of commercial confidentiality, and Mr Cleasby complained about its refusal to the Information Commissioner.
The Commissioner ordered key information in the business case to be made public, but the Council appealed against the Commissioner’s decision.
The matter will now be decided by a judge-led Information Tribunal, in a public hearing at Exeter Magistrates Court on Monday 13 March starting at 10am.
Peter Cleasby said:”Exeter City Council is set to spend £26 million of public money – a sum that may well increase – on the leisure complex. It claims that the complex will make a profit, but only a handful of officers and councillors know what assumptions are made in support of these claims. If the Council get this wrong, the city could be saddled with an expensive liability for years to come, so wider scrutiny and challenge of the business case assumptions is vital.”
A City Council spokesman said: “The Council will make its case before the Tribunal. It would be inappropriate to comment further ahead of the hearing.”
The pool project was recently put on hold because the council had not appointed a contractor, despite having already spent a significant proportion of the £32.5million combined pot for St Sidwell’s Point and the bus station.”
I suspect that this also has ramifications with EDDC’s Exmouth Regeneration proposals which are also in similar disarray.
What is it with local government these days? Are we to expect Paul Diviani and Karime Hassan to arrange a fact-finding mission to Otter Breweries and fail to arrange for alcoholic beverages to be provided?
Or perhaps it is the secrecy itself which results is far less robust contracts with developers (because the deal is sufficiently dodgy it has to be kept secret) thus leading to stalled developments when the developer drops out? (Academic studies have shown that the greater the transparency and democratic debate surrounding a decision, the better the outcomes – but that obviously doesn’t sit well with the leadership at EDDC or ECC.)