Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Public


To receive questions from members of the public who wish to ask a general question in respect of matters within the Council’s area of responsibility or influence.


Subject to the Chair’s discretion, members of the public may ask one question and one supplementary question, which should relate to the original question and answered received.


Councillors may also ask questions under this agenda item.


(1)  Mr. Felstead said he had been denied the previously requested information relating to the Wilmot Dixon schemes by the Cabinet Member and felt this was illegal under the rules of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. 


The Leader understood that a response had been provided to the questions raised, however, he was not clear of the exact nature of that response.  He explained the Council had to adhere to rules regarding disclosure of commercially sensitive information which included FOI requests.  The Leader indicated he would consider the response provided to see if further information could be provided within the regulations.


Mr. Felstead believed that Wilmot Dixon had not competitively tendered for the schemes and had been given preferred contractor status through the ‘Your Build’ Framework in 2018, with the drawings not being produced until 2019.  The response during the previous Cabinet meeting to his question had indicated that a Social Value Policy had been introduced to keep local money within the local community.  However, the response received in writing from the responsible Cabinet Member did not mention the Social Value Policy.  Mr. Felstead asked for clarification on whose response was correct.


The Leader explained that Framework contacts were in place for works of this nature.  The Framework contracts were created using a competitive appointment process, which did not detract from the requirements of the Social Value Policy.  The Leader reiterated that the Council wanted to see more money spent within the local economy, along with companies employing more local people, however, there would be instances when the use of a regional contractor was needed. 


The Cabinet Member for Housing explained there had been no unlawful activity regarding the provision of information.  The Council had attempted to provide the requested information in response to the FOI request, which was an independently managed process.  He clarified that the procurement process undertaken for the town centre sites had been a competitive process with Wilmot Dixon being the successful bidder out of five, having been scored on many different measures.  He understood that many of the supply companies working with Wilmot Dixon were local companies.  The Council was making a significant investment in the area, not to make a profit but to provide needed redevelopment.


Mr. Felstead went on to query why he had not been provided with the financial information requested when it had been discussed elsewhere.


The Leader indicated he would review the correspondence between Mr. Felstead and the Cabinet Member for Housing and ensure any financial information that could be shared would be provided clarifying that the Council was bound by commercial confidentiality rules so a complete breakdown could not be provided.


(2)  Mr. Harron sought clarification regarding the Council’s FOI process.  He had been informed that a complaint he had submitted could not be processed due to an ongoing FOI request and queried why that had happened, given that FOI’s were requests for information rather than seeking an action/outcome.


The Leader explained his understanding was that where an issue was being considered under one of those formal processes, either complaints or FOI, that the complaint would be held until the information had been provided under the FOI process.  This was to avoid issues running concurrently within multiple Council systems.  The Leader would clarify the position with Legal Services and respond in due course.


Mr. Harron did not agree that a complaint should be held whilst information was sought to address an FOI request, given that a complaint was usually made to address a behaviour rather than to seek information.