CONTRACT details for the Javelin Park incinerator have been revealed by Stroud District Green party while Gloucestershire County Council has spent £200,000 at the High Court to block any attempt to do so.

The details were revealed after a simple IT error in which the contract details could be copied and pasted into a word processing document and appear unredacted.

Stroud Green party members submitted a flurry of Freedom of Information requests in 2013 to see the full business details between the county council and Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) – the successful incinerator applicants.

When the contract was published it was heavily redacted, a lot of the important business information such as the costs and savings related to the incinerator process were blacked out, along with the phrase:

“Not for publication by virtue of para 3 of schedule 12a of the Local Government Act 1972 and the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information to the public.”

County councillor Sarah Lunnon (Green, Stroud Central), said: “The lack of openness on how our money is spent shouldn't be allowed to happen again.

“As more and more services are contracted out from GCC more and more oversight is being lost, and it's happening across local and national government and all our public services.

“We shouldn't have to rely on faith and trust, we should be able to know our money is being spent well and contributing to our common wealth.

"There is a fundamentally simple issue of Natural Justice here: those who have no choice but to pay the invoice should be allowed to see the itemised bill.

"Transparency and accountability are essential components of local government and other public bodies."

She has proposed that all contracting processes over £1million available to the public by the end of 2017, and all processes over £500 by the end of 2018 – a matter which is now under review after a decision rom the constitution committee.

A county council spokesman said: "An earlier version of the waste contract published on the council website could be manipulated to expose the redactions.

"This was replaced as soon as we were aware, there is an ongoing investigation into how this happened and we have informed the information tribunal.
"The council has already released over 95% of the contract, however some commercial information needs to remain confidential so we can get the best prices for taxpayers in the future."

In 2015 the county councils decision to redact this information was overruled by the Information Commissioner - who oversees FOI disputes – stating: “Public authorities must be able to demonstrate the causal link between any such affect and the disclosure of the specific information.

“No precise examples have been provided of how the release of the specific information would result in the effect claimed.”

The county council is currently appealing this decision, claiming the business details are private and that revealing them would make for poor confidentiality practice, that it would expose UBB to other market competitors and affect future contract applications.

Green party leader for Stroud District Council, Martin Whiteside (Thrupp), said: “It affects every single council tax payer.

“I don’t see any reason for this information to be kept from public knowledge unless they have something to hide, I think it’s an extremely shady deal."