Disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act are ‘to the world’ – all requestors are equal but some are more equal than others! When we asked Birmingham City Council for Kier Highways Ltd. claim and payment information the request was refused yet when another sought the data, it was disclosed!
02/11/2020, we sought claim data from Birmingham Council but, as at para. 26 of the Decision Notice (IC-88546-L4P2 Signed Decision Notice), the ICO upheld the council’s ‘commercially sensitive’ exemption:
’26. The council stated that disclosure of the Third Party Claims Return “would be likely to” prejudice the commercial interests of the council and BHL for the following reasons …’
12/05/2021 we sought ‘Third Party Road damage Claim Costs & Recoveries Utilizing CECA‘ from the Council – we wanted information about two closed files, Kier ref. GC\43812 INC 7800270 & Kier ref. GC\47247 INC 7601839 asking to be provided, amongst other items:
1. The amount Kier stated they claimed
2. The amount Kier stated they recovered
15/06/2021, whilst the Council assigned ref. 24056381, no response had been received, we sought an Internal review (IR) and notified the ICO Case Reference: IC-112545-L1P3.
05/01/2022, the council cited section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act.
19/02/2021, when sought by another, the information was disclosed – 21724385 BHam Claims 1.4.21 (2) with ref – working. The records disclosed evidence between 02/02/2020 and 21/01/2021, the council had been presented 507 claims. Of these 192 had been settled, the figures can be found here:
Of the settled matters, we suspect many drivers, fleets, hauliers or their insurers either do not know how to review the claims, are concerned that they are presented by lawyers with ‘threats’ of interest & legal costs or believe the presented figures represent reasonable costs and pay them promptly – £147,000 of claims were paid in full. Of those handled by CMA, the charge reduction was over 20%.
We are currently seeking further information from the Council about the figures being concerned:
- the ICO has been advised, when we apply, they are ‘commercially sensitive yet they have been disclosed to another (above),
- many of the references/payments appear to have been duplicated.
- the Council appeared unaware Kier is utilizing lawyers Shakespeare Martineau LLP to progress claims who cite Coles v Hetherton about which they had written:
All of a sudden recovering such [inflated] losses has become palatable. While the priority for fleet managers will obviously be getting vehicles back on the road as quickly as possible, the losses incurred as a result of non-fault accidents now represents a commercial opportunity, which they can take advantage of if they wish.
There is a moral issue here too as clearly adding costs into the recovery process could cause insurance costs to escalate and eventually all users of commercial vehicle insurance would end up paying for this through higher premiums.
However, others will take the view that while the commercial opportunity exists they would be foolish not to take advantage of it.
Shakespeare Martineau’s full post (now removed from their website) can be read here.
28/03/2022, we sought further information from the Council.
1984- More broadly, the novel examines the role of truth and facts within politics and the ways in which they are manipulated (source Wikipedia)