Anger after air qual­ity fig­ures ‘ma­nip­u­lated’

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE -

AN in­ves­ti­ga­tion has re­vealed that the coun­cil de­lib­er­ately mis­rep­re­sented data on air pol­lu­tion lev­els.

Cheshire East mon­i­tors air qual­ity in Mac­cles­field and the bor­ough and sub­mits find­ings to the Depart­ment for En­vi­ron­ment, Food and Ru­ral Af­fairs (De­fra).

But a coun­cil re­port re­vealed there have been a se­ries of in­ac­cu­ra­cies in data sub­mit­ted to De­fra.

An in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion by au­di­tors stated ‘se­ri­ous er­rors in the coun­cil’s air qual­ity data’ as a re­sult of ‘de­lib­er­ate and sys­tem­atic ma­nip­u­la­tion of data’.

This has caused out­rage among coun­cil­lors.

Coun Janet Jack­son, who rep­re­sents Mac­cles­field Cen­tral, said: “I’m very con­cerned the fig­ures have been de­lib­er­ately mis­rep­re­sented. It’s ex­tremely se­ri­ous. There are al­ready ar­eas in cen­tral Mac­cles­field which breach the le­gal lim­its for air pol­lu­tion and if the fig­ures have been mis­rep­re­sented then the problem could be worse than we thought or there could be other ar­eas of con­cern. We need to think about the res­i­dents who live in these places and are sub­ject to that all the time.

“This is just an­other in a long line of scan­dals for the coun­cil, a case of ‘here we go again’.”

The find­ings, pre­sented at a cab­i­net meet­ing on Fri­day, July 28, re­late to fig­ures for 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The re­port stated: “It is clear that these er­rors are the re­sult of de­lib­er­ate and sys­tem­atic ma­nip­u­la­tion of data from a num­ber of dif­fu­sion tubes.

“The coun­cil has been ex­posed to un­ac­cept­able risks to the se­cu­rity of its air qual­ity data as a re­sult of fail­ings within the ser­vice to en­sure that ad­e­quate pro­cesses, pro­ce­dures and sys­tems were in place.”

The coun­cil has now apol­o­gised for the in­accu- racies and has re­viewed in­ter­nal pro­cesses to en­sure the risk of data ad­just­ment is min­imised.

A sec­ond phase of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion how­ever sug­gests some plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions in the south of the bor­ough may have been af­fected as a re­sult of the ma­nip­u­la­tion.

Sean Hannaby, di­rec­tor of Plan­ning and Sus­tain­able Development, said: “I would like to sin­cerely apol­o­gise on be­half of the coun­cil. We as­sure ev­ery­one that we have done ev­ery­thing we can to rec­tify these fail­ings. Phase two of the ex­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­cluded a re­view of plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions where pub­li­ca­tion of re­vised air qual­ity data may have af­fected the plan­ning de­ci­sions.”

A spokesman for Chesh- ire East has con­firmed a list of plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions po­ten­tially af­fected will be re­leased this week.

The spokesman would not re­veal the name of the per­son or per­sons in­volved or the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind it. He said: “This is a com­plex sit­u­a­tion and the coun­cil is re­view­ing all as­pects in or­der to en­sure that ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion is taken to en­sure that this does not hap­pen again. How­ever we can not dis­cuss in­di­vid­ual HR mat­ters.”

Cheshire Po­lice has con­firmed they are re­view­ing the mat­ter. A Cheshire Po­lice spokesman said: “We can con­firm that the mat­ter has been brought to our at­ten­tion and of­fi­cers will re­view it to es­tab­lish if any crim­i­nal of­fences may have oc­curred.”

Coun Janet Jack­son

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.