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