Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting HT NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
Herefordshire Council company info not available to public
8:00am Tuesday 12th March 2013 in News
TWO Herefordshire Council linked companies with a huge say in the county’s everyday life and future are under no “obligation in law” to answer public interest questions about how they work or make key decisions.
Issues around Hereford Futures – the most public face of which is Hereford’s Old Livestock Market (OLM) project – and Hoople – set up to provide public sector support services – being subject to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act have been put to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee.
Though both companies were helped into being by the council and work to council related briefs, their obligations under FOI were minimal if not non-existent, members were told.
Hereford Futures (HF) in particular has been pushed to make minutes of its board meetings public.
The council has an interest in HF as a company limited by guarantee with the council as a member, but the relationship does not require group accounts as the company provides an independent role in the redevelopment of Hereford.
Over the 2011/12 financial year, HF received £481,000 from the council, down from £586,000 in 2010/11.
As currently drafted, FOI is applicable to public authorities which includes the council.
Other public authorities and outside organisations may hold information on behalf of the council, in which case a request received by the council may mean obtaining this information in order to comply with the law.
But in some cases outside organisations hold information arising from work with the council – and this is outside the scope of FOI.
The issue first went to scrutiny in January when further reports were commissioned specifically in respect to Hereford Futures and, on a wider basis, how FOI related to so-called “arm’s length” companies.