Emails between Cambridgeshire County Council and Kora

I’ve just received a response to my Freedom of Information request to Cambridgeshire County Council, asking for emails relating to the preparation and redaction of an earlier request by Paul Lythgoe, which originally revealed the 37 meetings about the (then secret) Kora library project that had taken place over two years.

There’s a great deal of information in this response – I’ve been sent over 200 pages of emails, though because of quoting there is a good deal of repetition of material. I haven’t had a chance to analyse it in detail yet, but because of the interest in this issue I’m publishing the response here. It should in any case appear on the Council’s public FoI log at 9pm this evening.

So here are the documents:

They certainly throw an interesting light on the process of preparing a Freedom of Information response.

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4 Responses to Emails between Cambridgeshire County Council and Kora

  1. Clare Burgess says:

    These make interesting reading…particularly the statement from Regus Kora (in Roger Perrin’s email of 20 May) that:

    “I am afraid that Regus cannot agree that any form of the minutes of meetings are made available to the public
    We have an NDA in place and need to respect it”
    [full stops curiously missing in the original]

    The Council’s subsequent legal advice conveyed to Regus made clear that this was not a tenable position for the Council under the law relating to FOI requests…which makes one wonder whether Regus had sought any legal advice prior to making that statement.

  2. Paul Lythgoe says:

    To complement the emails above you may find interesting a short series of internal council e-mails released via FOI requests over the last days.
    3 points to pick out. Firstly that lead councillors were aware and involved from the start in the Regus approach. Secondly, that there was scepticism about the numbers involved, the value of Regus involvement, and caution over Roger Perrin. Thirdly that an informal meeting of the cabinet gave aproval in March 2014 prior to a formal business case being made.

  3. Paul Lythgoe says:

    Hi Phil
    Having now read through the entire response to your FOI I have a few comments.
    1. In the context of the governments current review of FOI and its intention to find good cause to limit the scope of FOI the response to you request demonstrates clearly that it is not the response to an FOI request that is time consuming and expensive to the public purse but it is the attempt to limit transparency and protect the commercial interests of a private business looking to profit from partnerships with public bodies that incurs time, effort and cost.
    2. That council officers clearly worked to deliver the request to time and to ensure that they fulfilled fully their obligations under the FOI Act. That a substantial part of the delay was to conform in as far as the act allowed to a non-disclosure agreement that would have prevented the public knowing what the council were doing on their behalf.
    3. That Regus attempted to prevent the council fulfilling its statuatory duty of disclosure in order to further its own commercial interest with no due regard to local stakeholders.
    4. That on receipt of the FOI response I had considered an appeal prior to the library vote in council on a number of grounds including late filing, incomplete minutes, the public interest clauses relating to commercial redactions, and names already in the public domain. The council had claimed that no other company were able to deliver the Regus package and therefore there could not be any negative commercial threat to Regus. The legal representative indicates that there coud be concern over an appeal and review to the information commisioner on some of these points.
    Thank you for your follow up on the original FOI request it should be instructive to many about the FOI process and hopefully aids others in their constructive use of FOI for developing public policy.

    • Phil Rodgers says:

      Thanks very much for your comments, very interesting. I certainly get the impression from the responses that the Council’s FoI staff are doing their best to comply with both the spirit and the letter of the FoI legislation.

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