Freesteel Blog » Liverpool Science Park redact-o-rama

Liverpool Science Park redact-o-rama

Friday, March 9th, 2012 at 7:11 am Written by:

Unlike the United States of America, which funds its high tech innovation as a byproduct of its vast and insane military boondoggles, the European Union organizes its funding through investments, recently to the tune of €6.4 billion for smart growth and jobs.

The problem with investments is it doesn’t get the job done. You see, if the Prime Minister wanted to, say, establish a nuclear power industry in the UK, he wouldn’t give money to some venture capitalist firms to invest in nuclear power startup enterprises, because such enterprises would obviously have to expend all their resources looking for business (probably in Iran if they had to), and not doing the actual work. No, to grow the nuclear power industry, the Prime Minister would place some actual orders for nuclear power plants and related equipment, and the market would invest and provide.

Somehow this is too logical when it comes to high tech. Nevertheless, some of the investment goes into buildings for situating the said high tech industries. In fact, that investment comes in the form of orders for purchase, and the construction industry experiences a healthy business climate. Good for them!

We might not have developed a new high speed DNA sequencer in Liverpool, but by golly we have some buildings in which the new high speed DNA sequencer could have been invented had there been any money left over.

The Liverpool City Council is on the case concerning the construction of Building Number 3.

Oh dear. Well, excuse me:

Dear Liverpool City Council,

I note that during Item 61 of the meeting of the Cabinet on Friday, 7th October, 2011 9.00 a.m. the attendees resolved to exclude the public from the following item of business in accordance with
sub-section 4 of section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972 and section 100(1) and paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 whose text makes no reference to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The following item of business (Item 62a), Liverpool Science Park (F&R/5), resolved that the nine recommendations set out in the report submitted be approved.

Please may I be provided with a copy of said report in order to know what exactly Liverpool City Council has just approved of concerning this brand new office building that has been paid for out of European money?

I got a redacted version of this report with an explanation:

Whether or not a Local Authority holds information subject to a duty of confidence depends largely on the circumstances in which it was obtained and whether the Local Authority expressly agreed to keep it confidential. A duty of confidence may also arise due to the confidential nature of the information itself.

In this instance the information was provided to the City Council from another person, that being the third parties included in the report.

The City Council is of the opinion that full disclosure of the requested report could potentially bring about legal action on the part of the relevant third parties.

So, in other words, although I have a right to know about financial information relating to the city council and its public assets, this particular asset is jointly held by some other legal persons who would sue them for breach of confidence if they disclosed the information to me.

Well, isn’t that dandy? It all depends on how relevant these third parties are. I wrote back:

I note that there have been a number of redactions from this document under Section 41 on the basis that full disclosure of the financial arrangements would constitute an actionable breach of confidentiality by “third parties”.

In your letter you have not provided me with the identities of these “third parties”. The disclosed information states:

“Liverpool Science Park was established in 2003 as a partnership between the City Council, University of Liverpool, and Liverpool John Moores University, and operates through a company limited by guarantee.”

Can you confirm that the third parties you referred to in your response, who supplied this information “in confidence” and would take legal action against the Council were this confidence breached, are in fact three public authorities — two universities and the council itself?

Can you also confirm that the money invested in this development comes 100% from public funds via ERDF and NWDA?

I believe the handling of this information under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 is irrelevant in this matter as the FOI Act makes no reference to this act.

In case the redactions continue to be sustained under Section 43 (Commercial interests), I would like to point out that is in the public interest to understand the process for which government grants for the purpose of supporting the Knowledge Economy routinely emerge as healthy profits for construction companies. One of the reasons the Knowledge Economy is so weak in this city is the fact that the Council has locked up a billion pounds of business it could have been procuring locally in its contract with BT. But that, as you know, is another story.

About a month ago (though I hadn’t had time to look until now), I got the following reply:

I can confirm that although the Council were correct in considering Section 41 – supplied in confidence further consideration should have been made as to whether it would have been in the public’s interest to disclose the information than withhold it. On this point I consider it is in the public interest to release the report without further redaction and I attach for your attention a copy of the full report.

So, let’s see what’s changed:

Page 4 redacted:

Page 4 un-redacted:

Page 6 redacted:

Page 6 un-redacted:

Page 7 redacted:

Hmm… There seems to be some slight discrepancies. I wonder if they pulled out the right version. Funny how being a few thousand miles away from the action makes minor details not matter.

Page 7 un-redacted:

Page 7 lower redacted:

Page 7 lower un-redacted:

Page 8 redacted:

Page 8 un-redacted:

On page 9 we have the the threat of inaction part. If I had time I’d try to look up the council minutes from when the Buildings 1 and 2 were commissioned to see if there was any mention of the site being non-viable without Building 3.

Oh look, I’ve found the webpage of the Public Works Loan Board. Never knew that existed.


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