Council told to come clean over contract

CHIEFS in Mid Suffolk have been ordered to come clean on details of a contract to spruce up a leisure centre after refusing to release the information.

CHIEFS in Mid Suffolk have been ordered to come clean on details of a contract to spruce up a leisure centre after refusing to release the information.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has ordered Mid Suffolk District Council to hand over details of contracts relating to repairs and maintenance at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre after dismissing the possibility the information was commercially sensitive.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request, the council initially provided an edited version of the contract, telling the requester it was unwilling to release the financial details.

A spokeswoman for the Information Commissioner's Office said: “The council provided a number of reasons including that disclosure would breach confidentiality, set a precedent and may prevent it from obtaining the best possible price for future work or projects.

“In her ruling, assistant commissioner, Anne Jones, refused to accept that disclosure would be likely to lead to any change in the tendering process or undermine the council's ability to achieve best value for money.

“She also refused to accept the council's suggestion that disclosure would deter organisations from entering into business with public authorities on the basis that council contracts are a lucrative source of business for commercial organisations.”

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The assistant commissioner has also criticised Mid Suffolk District Council for taking several months to deal with the complainant's request for an internal review and “unacceptable delays” in providing additional information and explanations throughout the investigation.

“The council repeatedly refused to provide material in a timely manner and the ICO has now formally reminded the council of its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act,” the spokeswoman said.

Mid Suffolk District Council has 35 days from the date of the decision notice to release the information outlined.

Andrew Good, Mid Suffolk District Council chief executive, said the authority was continuing to work with the Information Commissioner's Office.

“We are still corresponding with the Information Commissioner because we currently don't go along with their view and wish to protect the public purse.”

Should council's be more open? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk