Se­cret coun­cil re­port on Brexit could yet see light Lawyers weigh up pub­li­ca­tion of con­tro­ver­sial ‘draft’ find­ings

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Carl Jack­son Coun­cil Cor­re­spon­dent

AMYSTERY re­port into the ef­fects of Brexit on Birm­ing­ham – which has twice been blocked from be­ing pub­li­cally re­leased – is now be­ing con­sid­ered by coun­cil lawyers, it has been re­vealed.

But the re­lease of the re­port may not be in the pub­lic in­ter­est, the city coun­cil has stated.

Author­ity lawyers are cur­rently weigh­ing up whether pub­lish­ing the se­cret doc­u­ment, which was pro­duced around two years ago be­fore the ref­er­en­dum, would be ‘prej­u­dice to the ef­fec­tive con­duct of pub­lic af­fairs’.

Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil has al­ready blocked pub­li­ca­tion of the re­port twice.

Its re­lease was stopped prior to the ref­er­en­dum to avoid in­flu­enc­ing the his­toric pub­lic vote in 2016.

The author­ity also de­nied a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest ear­lier this month stat­ing the re­port never made it past draft stage and was never signed off.

The rul­ing has since been chal­lenged to which the coun­cil’s Cor­po­rate In­for­ma­tion Gov­er­nance Team replied: “On iden­ti­fy­ing the in­for­ma­tion re­quested it has be­come neces- sary to con­sider ap­ply­ing the pub­lic in­ter­est test as we con­sider that the in­for­ma­tion you have re­quested may be sub­ject to ex­emp­tions from dis­clo­sure.”

The author­ity cites Sec­tion 36 of the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act which states: “where com- ply­ing with the re­quest would prej­u­dice or would be likely to prej­u­dice ‘the ef­fec­tive con­duct of pub­lic af­fairs’.

“This in­cludes, but is not lim­ited to, sit­u­a­tions where dis­clo­sure would in­hibit free and frank ad­vice and dis­cus­sion.”

The coun­cil added: “The author­ity needs to bal­ance the pub­lic in­ter­est in dis­clos­ing the in­for­ma­tion against the pub­lic in­ter­est in with­hold­ing the in­for­ma­tion from pub­li­ca­tion.

“In or­der to carry out this le­gal work, the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act al­lows Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil, as a pub­lic author­ity, a fur­ther rea­son­able amount of time. This re­quest has there­fore been passed to our le­gal team to ap­ply a pub­lic in­ter­est test to this re­quest.”

The ex­is­tence of the re­port emerged at a meet­ing of the coun­cil’s Econ­omy, Skills and Trans­port Over­view and Scru­tiny Com­mit­tee in April dur­ing an agenda item dis­cus­sion on the ‘Po­ten­tial Im­pli­ca­tions of Brexit’.

> The coun­cil has blocked pub­li­ca­tion of the re­port twice

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