A councillor has found a loophole which could help bring the details of confidential council reports into the open using the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
Gwersyllt councillor Arfon Jones was present at a meeting of Wrexham Council’s executive board where an item regarding the demolition of a building on Rhosddu Road was held in private.
It had been decided by the previous administration that the building known as “Centre 67” was surplus to requirement and should be demolished, however the new council wanted to reverse the decision and retain it despite officers’ recommendations.
Usually agenda items held in Part II of meetings are confidential for reasons such as the discussion of staffing or commercially sensitive issues.
In this instance the reason for the report’s inclusion in Part II was that it contained figures relating to the demolition costs of the building.
Cllr Jones felt that this was irrelevant given that the report recommended to retain the building, so decided to enter a Freedom of Information request to place it into the public domain, which was ultimately successful.
He explained: “Any attempt to have this matter discussed in open forum would have resulted in a breach of member’s code of conduct on my part and a complaint to the ombudsman, so what was I to do?
“There was one tactic that I hadn’t considered previously and it wasn’t one I resort to often to get information from my own authority as it isn’t normally necessary.
“On this occasion however I decided to test the basis to include this report in Part II by making a Freedom of Information request for this Part II report, but the request was made for the report with the parts considered confidential redacted.
“Having removed any grounds for refusal Wrexham County Borough Council had no choice but to provide this report in its entirety with only two figures redacted.”
Here at Wrexham.com we plan to take a leaf out of Cllr Jones’s book in order to provide greater transparency into council affairs. Watch this space.