It would be foolhardy to place any reliance upon information emanating from Highways England. Their written word requires careful consideration, questioning, substantiation and corroboration. It is evident, should a disclosure cause the Authority embarrassment or concern, they are likely to turn on a sixpence, apologise and provide a lacklustre, obstructive explanation. The ‘excuse of choice’ for FoIA responses appears to be ‘it does not exist’; whatever they stated was held is a myth.
Examples of their U-turns can be found here. A substantial concern relates to the rates the Authority agreed with their contractors to repair the damage. You would expect an Authority, entrusted with £millions, to engage in formal, carefully compiled contracts. But no … they overlooked a price list! Or did they …
2016 – The Authority’s General Counsel wrote to advise that they were charged £73/.05/hour for an operative by Kier. Rubbish. If this was the case the charge would have been exorbitant and contract non-compliant. But the Authority is unconcerned with accuracy – they will brazenly misrepresent facts.
2018 – The schedule of rates for Damage to Crown Property (DCP), had been the subject of 175 request/reviews over the preceding 5 years. They should have been released following a Tribunal Judgement and would have demonstrated the contract non-compliant process Kier engaged, the profiteering and fraud. But rather than disclose the data Highways England responded ‘oops … overlooked, not held’.
175 request/reviews engaged s1 of the FoIA, confirmed the rates were held and then … when their commercials sensitivity and vexatious exceptions fell away what was left …. their last refuge …. tell them we do not have any! Read more about the mythical rates here and their existence here.
Groundhog day …
2016 – The pain/gain share that would see Kier’s monthly lumpsum reduced if they recovered costs from drivers, fleets, hauliers (or their insurers) above a threshold existed. Then, when we demonstrated Kier was proving false costs data, there was no ‘pain/gain share’.
Then at a Tribunal, there was a pain/gain share but subsequently, no there is not!
The brief history can be found here with more detail set out here, the timeline.
As tor the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the issue appears to fall under their ‘too complicated’ and ‘too much to read’ exemptions … that is the job of an Information Tribunal. Far easier for the Authority to side with a well resourced Authority, sit on the fence. And what if the Tribunal finds against them … the ICO is resiting addressing their own failings by saying ‘not my job’ … once again palming this role to the Tribunal.