Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Powys Fadog FOI saga

I have posted previously here and here regarding the ongoing battle with the Welsh Government to obtain information in relation to the handling of the Powys Fadog project.

The last FOI request I submitted was again very late, this time taking nearly 80 working days to receive a response, this followed yet another warning from the Information Commissioner.

As you can see from previous posts, substantial delays and problems in relation to FOI requests on this topic are nothing new, what is surprising about this latest one are the exemptions used by the Welsh Government to justify not handing over the information, this time 40(2)(personal data) and 36(2)(c)(effective conduct of public affairs). Also interesting is the fact that the wording of my original request has been slightly altered by the Welsh government along the process, something I’m currently taking up with the relevant department to ensure there has been no attempt to alter the meaning of the request.

The FOI request I submitted back in April reads as follows:

‘Any e mails, letters or paper work relating The People’s council of North Wales or the West Cheshire/north east Wales sub-regional strategy to the Powys Fadog /River Lodge project. I would like to request documents either to, from or on behalf of Karen Sinclair and Rhodri Morgan. I would like to request any information held from January 2009 to present’

The Welsh Government have confirmed that they do indeed hold information in relation to this request. In itself this is very concerning considering that the Powys Fadog project has nothing to do with the West Cheshire Plan or indeed the People’s Council who campaigned to stop it.

Why would former Assembly Member for Clwyd South Karen Sinclair be communicating with the First Minister of the country at the time Rhodri Morgan, linking these issues together?

Even more interesting, why would the Welsh Government use the following ‘exemption’ to justify not releasing this information?

"Section 36(2) ( c) – Effective conduct of public affairs

The exemption under Section 36(2)(c) is designed to prevent prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs. The relationship between the First Minister and an elected representative forms the basis of democratic representation in Wales. That relationship is one based on the trust which an Assembly Member (AM) needs to maintain if he, or she, is to carry out their role effectively. There is a duty upon AMs, most clearly expressed in their Code of Conduct, to represent the interests of their constituents/constituencies and in doing so, there is an implied understanding that there has to be a right to privacy whilst representing their interest in the public arena.

Although the person corresponding with the First Minister, in this case, is no longer an AM, other elected representatives are likely to become aware of any disclosure. The knowledge that comments made to the First Minister could be disclosed in response to a FoI request has a real potential to impact upon the way in which AMs might engage with the Welsh Government whilst undertaking their core functions of working in the best interests of the people they represent. If this information was released into the public domain, we consider there to be a significant and real risk of elected representatives being less forthcoming in the manner in which they bring matters to the Welsh Government’s attention. In the light of this, it has been decided that disclosure of this information would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs."

I’ve submitted quite a few FOI’s in my time but have not come across this exemption before. Surely if an AM communicates with the First Minister through official lines, this information should be open to FOI. Indeed, e mails between Karen Sinclair and Rhodri Morgan(whilst First Minster) in relation to Powys Fadog have previously been released, so what is so special about this topic I wonder to warrant the above?

I believe the Welsh Government will eventually have to release this information, even to the untrained eye the exemption applied above is clearly nonsense and designed solely to protect individual politicians. The fact that this information even exists points even more strongly to the discriminatory way the Powys Fadog project has been treated by senior Labour politicians and the Welsh Government.





21 comments:

nialloyd said...

skulldugery

Anonymous said...

The fact is the Powys Fadog project never had mass community support. Karen Sinclair should have the right to convey the views of the electorate when it comes to taxpayers money and assets. Plaid conspiracy theorists should get out more.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of shit here somewhere, complain to the Information Commissioner at once.

Anonymous said...

Been following this for while, can't be too much longer before it hits the fan in a big way.

Why on earth have Assembly Members, the First Minister and even the top civil servant in Wales been so determined to stop what is a relatively small project in Llan? Very very dodgy.

Anonymous said...

Because Pol Wong & Co are active Plaid supporters?

Plaid Queensway said...

Anon 1556, apart from Sincair and her cronies, who in Llan doesn't support the project? They have letters of support from local residents groups, the police, the town council and over 150 members!What more would you have them do?

Of course Karen Sinclair should have a right to convey the views of the electorate but that's not what she's done. She's made a lot of unfounded allegations to Ministers and used her influence as an AM to try and get the project stopped, and that's just what's come to light with the FOI's released to date. I dread to think what else will eventually come out in the wash.

Anonymous said...

Anon 23:41 - So you advocate stopping projects on the basis that it is supported by one political party? Isn't that's what wrong with Wales, governed by one party who thinks it has the best ideas. Still same old arrogant partisan Labour Party.

If Pol Wong was a Labour Party member I suppose the Powys Fadog project would be ok would it?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the local builder who won the contract for the project should have joined Labour as well. He might not have had to go through the trauma of his business nearly going under thanks to Sinclairs antics.

Local people in Llangollen know the score with this and I can tell you they're not amused, it stinks to high heaven and it's about time Sinclair and her pals in Cardiff were brought to account.

nialloyd said...

It makes me feel physically sick when outsiders come in, manage to get grants to fund their businesses and local people trying to invest in their community constantly get knocked back. Wales needs entrepreneurs and people wanting to give back to their communities like Powys Fadog. The opportunities are vast, promoting health and well-being, tourism, culture and language, skill building, jobs for locals, historical tours, child minding and so much more. Stopped for what?
One day, very soon this will all come out, there will be a lot of egg on a lot of faces, I hope that they get what is coming to them through their pure vindictiveness or please enlighten me if it is something else?

edtygwyn said...

I've had an FOI request in since 26.03.10. They have consistently missed target dates and promises to respond. If I had not continued to pursue them I'd never have heard from them again. They work to delay and confuse hoping that you just give up. Very corrupt.

Anonymous said...

The peoples council have been so busy fighting the west cheshire plan and talking about a shack near llangollen they missed the deadline to make representations on the planning appeal for housing on the Brymbo steelworks site!

Avril Smith said...

I am absolutely disgusted at the way the Powys Fadog group have been treated. If this was not such an excellant idea why did WAG agree to back it in the first place? Communities need projects like this,it could be the Flagship and eventually be rolled out accross Wales. What cancerns me is that an AM can have something like this stopped without the reasons for doing so open to the public. Time for answers I think this has gone on long enough!

Avril Smith said...

I live in Brymbo and I have to admit I wasn't aware that planning had gone to appeal. I would have expected to hear about that from my local councillor but then again as I am so clearly against over development in the area and my local councillor is for it then I suppose it wouldn't be in his interest to inform me of the impending deadline. He would normally let me know of things that we agree on. But what this has to do with Powys Fadog I fail to understand!

Anonymous said...

Avril 19:13 - usually residents nearest the development who are likely to be affected are notified. So you are unlikely to be notified if you live far away and would be unaffected.

Anonymous said...

Nia Lloyd 10:34 - Maybe you should be more specific about "outsiders" so you can be reported to the police for being racist!

Avril Smith said...

Brymbo residents are all affected by the volumes of traffic,hospital,Doctors,Dentist waiting lists, (to name but a few) that over-develpment in the area has caused. As for being near, I was e-mailed and kept informed of the traveler site which was further away from me than the new development. Like I said maybe only those in favour of this would be made aware as we were of the Traveler site! Hopefully now that Aled Roberts has at last agreed with the issues put forward by the PCNW of the effect of overdevelopment in North Wales the decision will stand.

Avril Smith said...

I must appologies for moving away from the issues affecting Powys Fadog as I said in an earlier post I fail to see why Brymbo would be mentioned on this Blog but saying that I felt that I needed to respond as I do reside there. I am not a member of Powys Fadog but admire what they propose to bring to Llangollen given the chance. I recently saw on the news how Cardiff kept their youth clubs open and encourage the youths to stay there to avoid riots spreading to their city. We need places like Powys Fadog and the brilliant opportunities it would bring for the area and beyond. Give them something that could be the hub of their community, something to be proud to be a part of. From what I saw of the youth fighting when I was in Llangollen during the Eisteddfod I would say it was very much needed. I hope WAG come to their senses soon.

Wheaty said...

As a resident of Brymbo I think the issue of the travellers site was different. The proposed travellers site was within the "old" village, near a grade II listed building and would have been completely out of character. In this case there is a large space where the steelworks stood between Brymbo and the proposed development.

Surely it is better to see a regenerated site with people living there supporting the local economy than a barren industrial site?

If the developer wins the appeal there will hopefully be funding towards the new road which will allow for new facilities to be built for the local community and bring jobs to the area.

nialloyd said...

Anon 10:34
Erthygl hiliol atgas sy'n ymosod ar y Cymry, Cymru a'r Gymraeg yn cael ei gyhoeddi yn y Dail Mail. Ymddengys bod hiliaeth wrth-Gymreig yn berffaith dderbyniol er bod pob hiliaeth arall yn erbyn y gyfraith. / The Daily Mail has published a hateful racist article attacking the Welsh, our country and our language. It seems that racism towards the Welsh is perfectly acceptable although every other form is illegal.

Avril Smith said...

Wheaty: I agree the site proposed at Coed Y Felin was not suitable and I have my doubts as to who and why this was put forward in the first place. From what I believe this site was not suitable for human habitation. According to a quote in the Evening Leader at the time this site was being considered for travellers, a council spokes person for the residents said "Services and amenities could not cope with the present population let alone a further 30 travelling families and 15 caravans" another said "Schools in the area are also approaching capacity". The regeneration of the steelworks site,600 houses and counting plus hundreds more residents. It was proposed in
2002, 300 jobs plus light industry, every couple of years the the housing numbers go up another 150(and still no light industry) yet our services are expected to cope with that! And incidently, I did a have updates on developments on the steelworks site up until July actually! May I once again appologies to Powys Fadog.

Avril Smith said...

That should read : It was proposed in 2002, 300 houses plus light industry (not jobs). It was hoped to create a thousand jobs.