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£26,000 spent trying to keep information from us .,. how many others are treated in this fashion?

01/07/2020, we asked National Highways (NH) to provide some information about Kier Highways Ltd’s (‘Kier’) billing of Third Parties.  We believed Kier profiteering was profiteering from claims (collisions, fire & spills) occurring and that NH was misrepresenting facts to us.  In particular, we were concerned about a tranche of claims, more than 100, about (we believed) to be heard by Cardiff Couty Court (21/08/2020 judgement).

NH responded that the information was not held.  We challenged this and sought an Internal Review (IR).  NH upheld their ‘not held’ stance.  We complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

16/07/2021, it appears the ICO was in contact with NH about their position – the Authority was asking what would happen if they asked Kier for the information.  It appears, 07/2021, NH had satisfied itself the information was held by Kier, it could and would be provided.  However, it also appears they failed to convey this to the ICO as the information was not provided to us.

16/08/2021, the ICO issued their Decision Notice (DN) – they found for us, the information was held by Kier on behalf of NH.  Given NH had established the information was held and could be provided, why did NH not simply disclose the information?

At the time, we (and it appears the ICO) were unaware of the above Kier/NH exchanges (these were acquired 05/2022 in response a FoIA request!).  But this was not the end of the matter:

  • 07/09/2021, NH asked Kier for the information we sought
  • 09/09/2021, NH asked Kier to ‘hold fire’, not to send the information
  • 13/09/2021, despite having established the information was held, and could be acquired … NH’s legal department appealed.  The content of their appeal makes no reference to the above exchanges, that Kier could and would supply the information – the Appeal can be read here.
  • 14/09/2021, the day after submitting their Appeal, NH returned to Kier and again asked for the information
  • 15/09/2021, Kier provided NH the information

Government Legal Department (GLD) represented NH. For months, NH kept their possession of the information to themselves.  There was a Case Management Direction (CMD), the ICO and we were required to submit our arguments in support of ‘held on behalf of’.  Then, 01/2022, NH, via GLD, withdrew the appeal.  09/02/2022 NH disclosed the information they had held for almost 5 months.

We asked GLD how much this had cost the public purse: £26,290.10, the breakdown being:

  Hours Rate (£) Total (£)
Attendances on client
Letters/emails 52.5 108.00 (lawyer pre 1.4.22) 5670.00
1.1 111.00 (lawyer post 1.4.22) 122.10
Telephone 7.2 108.00 777.60
Attendances on opponents
Letters/emails 2.5 108.00 270.00
Telephone 1.2 108.00 129.60
Attendances on others
Letters/emails 54.1 108.00 5482.80
5.7 111.00 632.70
Telephone 4.1 126.00 (senior lawyer) 516.60
7.5 108.00 810.00
0.4 111.00 44.40
Work done on

documents

 

 

 

 

 

total

0.3

 

0.9

100.4

7.5

0.6

 

109.7

134.00 (Senior Civil Service pre

1.4.22)

126.00 (senior lawyer pre 1.4.22) 108.00 (lawyer pre 1.4.22)

111.00 (lawyer post 1.4.22)

75.00 (administrative officer)

40.20

 

113.40

10,843.20

832.50

45.00

 

11, 874.30

26, 290.10

We have asked the ICO what assistance we can reasonably expect to address this conduct, what appears to be a contemptuous approach to the FoIA, ICO and a Tribunal.  We await a response.


The full GLD reply can be read here: 220614_FOI 218_Swift_Response

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