Anger after air quality figures ‘manipulated’
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