……when asked about the cost of “interim” staff
By Graham Smith
Cornwall Council has refused to disclose details of “temporary” senior officials who earn vast daily rates of pay, even refusing to apply a “public interest test” to the management of this information.
Last month Cornwall Reports published details of the council’s enthusiastic use of the outsourcing agency Bloom, revealing how four “temps” earned, between them, £3,233 per day. Cornwall Reports questioned if this was the best use of public money, at a time when many frontline staff are being made redundant, and applied formally under the Freedom of Information Act.
The council has now replied, “withholding this information as release could potentially identify individuals, third parties or personal information relating to an individual.”
However, the use of temporary staff falls under the category of commercial contractors – and is required to be published in a monthly digest of all council expenditure where the contract is worth more than £500.
Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act, relating to commercial interests, requires councils to apply a Public Interest Test (PIT.) It is still possible that the information might be withheld, if it is deemed to be against the public interest to disclose it.
But the council has decided not to carry out a public interest test and to withhold the information anyway. “We have come to the conclusion that the PIT is no longer required and we apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused,” says a covering letter.
Cornwall Reports has challenged the council’s refusal and the issue appears destined for the Information Commissioner to resolve.