Nottingham City Council’s deputy leader wants to know what the Government has to hide after it refused to answer questions about how £300m of grant was allocated to councils.
After submitting Freedom of Information requests, Councillor Graham Chapman was told by the DCLG that ‘£300m of expenditure does not justify the public interest served by disclosure of the information’ and public interest ‘would be minimal beyond a small number of interested parties.’ He is now planning to appeal this decision.
In April, the Government began allocating an extra £300m Transitional Grant funding over the next two years to help councils cope with the ongoing cuts – but it was mainly received by well-off councils in the south which over the austerity years have escaped serious cuts to their Government funding.
At the same time, more northerly places like Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, which have borne the brunt of severe funding cuts from Government, received no additional money.
Despite two Freedom of Information requests and several Written Parliamentary Questions, the Government is still refusing to provide key details about how this money is allocated.
The latest FOI request from Councillor Chapman was submitted on 16 May and asked for a copy of the detailed spreadsheet used as a calculation model to determine the allocation of Transition Grant to individual authorities and any other associated spreadsheets. In addition a request was made for copies of any correspondence related to the creation of this calculation model.
On 15 June, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) responded that they were unable to provide the information requested and that “it is not in the public interest to disclose this information at this time.”
The DCLG also stated that “the public interest served by disclosure of the information we hold would be minimal beyond a small number of interested parties.”
Additionally, despite it being common practice for spreadsheet data to be released for other areas of council settlement funding, the DCLG has once again avoided releasing it for this particular area of funding.
Councillor Chapman will be appealing the latest response to his FOIs and approaching local MPs to demand once again that the Government releases this information.
Councillor Chapman said: “How council funding is distributed is an issue that affects a great number of people up and down the country. That’s why I’ve been pressing the Government to be open and transparent about how the decisions were made on Transitional Funding.
“The reply to my original FOI enquiry received a response from the DCLG that there would be a delay to examine whether the release of the information ‘was in the public interest’ and the eventual response failed to provide the detailed spreadsheet allowing a proper assessment of the calculation, though a formula was provided.
“A further request for the spreadsheet has now been refused absolutely, as has a request for any correspondence relating to the request on the somewhat ridiculous grounds that ‘the public interest served by disclosure of the information would be minimal beyond a small number of interested parties.
“The Government is patently prevaricating. But the more it does so, the more suspicions increase that they have something to hide.”