“I will be open and transparent in how decisions are made and how tax payer’s money is spent”

“I will be open and transparent in how decisions are made and how tax payer’s money is spent” – these are the words of Mr John Campion, Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia. This was his promise when he was campaigning to be be elected PCC.

Time has moved on, he is now the successfully elected Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia. His official website now contains the following:-

As your Commissioner I will:

Be open and transparent in all the decisions and appointments I make and in the way I hold the Chief Constable to account

Be under no illusions, this is clearly a man who is going to be open and transparent with his Public.

18 months or so down the line since his success in the elections and we have the controversial sale of Registration Mark AB1. I have already written about this here and here.

Under the terms of the FOIA I requested the following from the PCC

Copies of Minutes of any Meeting where the sale of AB1 was proposed or discussed (redacted if appropriate) including the very first proposal to sell it.

His response was this

There are no copies of minutes or any other documents regarding the first proposal to sell AB1. Decision Notice 8 implicitly incorporates the recommendation to sell with the recommendation to accept the offer.

Very open and transparent I must say. I can only say that I am really glad that I will never have to rely on Decision Notice 8 as my Original Notes in any Civil or Criminal Court proceedings as it is seriously lacking as a document to rely upon when giving evidence. PLUS, am I really supposed to believe that in the process of making the decision to sell off some of the ‘family silver’ no meetings were held to discuss it, no notes of any discussions were written down, in short there is NO written record of anything until Decision Notice 8 records the decision to accept £160,000.

Is THAT ‘Open and Transparent’?

I also asked for

Copies of any documents including, but not limited to, any correspondence concerning the monetary value of the VRM, any letters or emails between OPCC/PCC/HEO and the successful purchaser.

Copies of any other documents or emails, not specifically requested previously, that contain reference to the sale of AB1 and have not been previously included in a Disclosure Log.

The PCC’s response to these requests was:-

The documents and correspondence concerning the monetary value of the VRN and copies of emails between the OPCC/PCC/HEO and the successful purchase are exempt from disclosure under Section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act – Commercial Interests.

The copies of any other documents not specifically requested previously that contain reference to the sale of AB1 and not previously included in the Disclosure Log are all exempt from disclosure under either Section 43(2) – Commercial Interests, Section 42(1) – Legal Professional privilege, Section 33(2) – Audit Functions or Section 22(1) – Information held with a view to its publication at a future date, which has all since been published.

An assortment of reasons why the information I requested should not be disclosed. Open and Transparent?

So I requested a Review of their (lack of a) response.

In your response you have referred me to Decision Notice 8. At the bottom of Decision Notice 8 (a document signed by both the PCC and the Chief Executive, entitled PUBLIC ACCESS TO INFORMATION. Within this section it states that any information that cannot be made available automatically on request are included in a Part 2 Report. It then categorically states that THERE IS NO PART 2 REPORT. On the basis of this statement I request that you conduct an Internal Review into your response to my request.

Their response to this was:-

As per your request dated 2nd December 2017, I have reviewed the handling of your Freedom of Information request regarding the sale of the vehicle registration ‘AB1’, with specific reference to the information published in decision notice PCC/D/2017/08.

Every decision notice on the PCC’s website makes reference to public access to information and the potential for a ‘part two report’. In this instance, the notice correctly indicates that no part two report was completed for PCC/D/2017/08, as it was not deemed necessary. This is common practice for decision notices, as can be verified on the PCC’s website.

This does not mean the information you requested does not exist, but it does not form part of the formal decision notice and is exempt from publication for the reasons stated in our previous correspondence.

As such, the previous response you received to your request was correct and appropriate.

And this response from an un-named ‘FOI Officer’ in an unsigned letter

So, there we have it, a completely Open and Transparent account of all the relevant decisions behind the sale of VRM AB1.

A cynical person might think that something was being covered up but I can’t believe that, the PCC has pledged to be Open and Transparent.

Above, in its entirety, is reproduced Decision Notice 8/2017. This appears to be the only document that has been Openly and Transparently disclosed, and is the only publicly available document that records the ‘entire’ decision-making process re the sale of VRM AB1.

Open and Transparent? Commercially and Legally Sensitive? Is that appropriate? You decide.

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