Sunday, October 2, 2022

Thurrock Council to fight on in financial confidentiality case

Last month, a tribunal rejected one of the council’s arguments for keeping loan information confidential – the impact on its commercial activities – as part of a FOI case with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.  

A deadline for the council to submit evidence on a separate ground – relating to whether releasing the information could prejudice collective responsibility or inhibit the free and frank provision of advice – expired on Monday.

However, last week, Thurrock lodged a request to the tribunal for more time to file a representation, permission for which was granted today, PF has learnt.

A Thurrock spokesperson told PF: “Thurrock Council has been granted a short extension until 26 April to file its detailed submission.

“The documents will be filed with the tribunal in time for this new deadline.

“The council welcomes the opportunity to join and participate in the hearing to support the tribunal to understand the council’s position on the application of an exemption under section 36(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.”

Thurrock’s FOI battle with the paper relates to the council’s refusal to disclose details of more than £700m of loans from other councils and the yield-seeking investments it has made in the renewable energy sector.

Last month’s tribunal ruling found that disclosing these loans and investments could have a negative impact on its commercial interests. 

However, it said this impact would be fairly marginal and was outweighed by the public interest in revealing the details, due to the large sums involved.

Thurrock has received widespread attention for its investment strategy, which has seen it borrow more than £1bn from other local authorities.

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