Ms Naven

Freedom of Information Officer

Stockport Council

Town Hall


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dear Ms Naven

Case Reference Number FS50232537

In reply to your email dated 20/02/09, I shall try to deal with all the points you raise:-

Firstly, I am a very loving person. I habitually sign off with Lots of Love, whether writing to the Editor of the Guardian, leaving a message for my work colleagues, emailing friends or writing to the Council. That is my nature. I am afraid I can’t change it to fit in with some Council concept of how I should behave. However, this might in future make a good newspaper story – counciltaxpayer branded vexatious for saying Lots of Love, so many thanks for that opportunity. Similarly, as a philosophical Taoist, fun is part of everything I do, so again I can’t change my character to please SMBC.

If you would like me to supply witness statements about how LibDem Executive councillors fly off the handle with members of the public, I will gladly do so. That might make a good newspaper story too if I get enough. I am, for example, currently taking Councillor Goddard to the Standards Committee for calling me a liar in Council meetings. Over a three month period he has failed to produce evidence of this. He regularly flies off the handle. I don’t pay him to do that. I think the Stockport Express reporter has repeatedly witnessed how Councillor Weldon has flown off the handle at me.

I said Councillor Foster Grime was attractive and had a brain. And would be far too clever to rant and rave at council taxpayers. Again, as an example of my alleged rudeness I feel it is lacking somewhat.

Are the above the only instances of my rude and offensive behaviour? If so, I don’t think they amount to a hill of beans and certainly do not justify the Chief Executive’s slanderous comments about me in council meetings and to the employees of the Council. I have been asking for examples of my alleged rudeness for years – your recent response gives me ammunition for my defamation case against Mr. Schultz, the Chief Executive. Thanks very much.

Only 159 questions since 2006 over Harcourt Street when I represent over 800 local residents, which I can prove, – I don’t think is too bad. I repeat – would you like me to get the 800 to write in themselves, because I can. How many of those emails are repeat request because the Freedom of Information Officer has not acknowledged receipt of the first email or indeed complied with the law and replied within 20 working days? I shouldn’t have to ask the Council twice or three times for a response, that is illegal.

I decided last Friday to send the Information Commission documentary evidence of what I have uncovered regarding Harcourt Street so far using the FOI. This is just what I came up with within roughly an hour on Friday night. The fact that the contamination investigations are inadequate and do not comply with BS10175, the fact that between October 2005 and May 2006 the cost rose from £5.5 million to £8.2 million, the fact that the traffic arrangements are inadequate and dangerous, the replacement public open space does not even satisfy your own public open space officer, the fact that this school is not even big enough for all the children who need to attend. There are actually many other things I uncovered, such as the Grimley Eve planning consultant suggesting putting political pressure on the planning committee councilors to get the decision he wanted. Totally illegal! You can’t put political pressure on a planning committee; at least you shouldn’t but strange things to on in Stockport with regards to planning. There is also the fact that none of the planned contamination investigations was carried out on the compulsory purchase land. They should have been yet the Council plans to dig it up. At what stage would the Council have done the investigations had I not used the FOIA and uncovered this fact? Never, I suspect. I think I have successfully proved with the evidence provided to the Information Commission that I have been wasting nobody’s time in asking the Harcourt Street questions and if this whole experience teaches Stockport Council to be more open and honest in future, then of course every single question is worthwhile.

May I point out, in passing, that Andrew Webb, Director of Children’s and Young People’s Directorate sent me a letter banning me and anyone else in the entire town, or even the country from asking questions on this issue. So, had the Council had its way, the many pieces of documentary evidence sent to the Information Commission last Friday would have permanently been kept secret from the people of Stockport. Mr. Webb should have had carried out an independent review of his refusal yet I heard nothing for a period of six months. This is unacceptable behaviour. I only overturned this permanent ban by humiliating Stockport Council at Westminster (documentary evidence available on request).

You state in your email:- which is apparently designed to disrupt or prevent the building of the new school on the Harcourt Street site in favour of a site which you consider to be more appropriate.” At the Fir Tree Primary School Consultation with the Governors held on 06/07/05, the Fir Tree Governors expressed concern that families will have difficulty in getting to the proposed new site at Harcourt Street and they felt that outreach work would need to be increased as they felt parents from the school would not walk to the new facilities. The Governors supported the idea of a new school, but would have wished the site to be in the Fir Tree Community. I got information using the Freedom of Information Act! I have knocked on hundreds of doors in the Fir Tree area – those people want and need to keep their school. If you want me to provide evidence from hundreds of people that they consider the Harcourt Street site to be more appropriate, then I shall do that.

Regarding the Audit Commission, auditors have given us the global financial situation we are currently in, so are not the watchdogs we would wish for. I will go back to the Audit Commission when I have finally spannered the rest of the financial information from the Council’s grasp.

Regarding asking questions at Council meetings, we are often told we should engage more in local democracy as members of the general public. Are you saying in your email that you don’t want members of the public to join in? That would make a bit of a mockery of these experimental area committees they have set up at presumably more expense to engage more with members of the public and the State of the Borough debates. I would be grateful if you could confirm that what you are saying is we shouldn’t ask council questions. If I have correctly understood your comments, again this would make a great newspaper story. There is usually just me there. Who else would ask questions?

May I point out that had the Council carried out an honest and not corrupted consultation exercise in the first place – and I can provide witness evidence that it didn’t and indeed under the FOIA I have proved that the Council can provide no evidence of anyone in favour of the Harcourt Street site – then the Council would not have received even one email on this subject because it would have done what was best for the local community and what the local community actually wanted, which it didn’t.

Our reference

Your request title


FOI 1360

Strategic Capital Group report

There are very worrying issues here about your failure to produce a current, relevant document regarding the finances. The cost rose from £5.5 million in October 2005 to £8.2 million in May 2006. It then rose to £10 million. The Council is replacing 5 civic buildings with the state of the art municipal building costing £12 million. The proposed Harcourt Street school was described by the planning committee as a shoddy building with a tin roof. Why then is it costing so much? I have shown in evidence supplied the paucity of the contamination investigations with nothing at all done over the site of the football pitch, which is the site of the school, which is directly over the old rubbish tip. The potential cost of dealing with subsequently found contamination is millions of pounds.

£6.9 million for this school is to come from the sale of redundant school land. I have provided evidence to the Information Commission that the Council is having problems with the sale of redundant school sites. The Council has no justification in deliberately concealing these documents. It there was nothing to hide the Council would release them.


FOI 1380

Harcourt Street

OK, don’t answer it. I have already proved in documents sent to the Information Commission that this school is not big enough for the children who need to attend and the birthrate is rising sharply. The fact is that children from over the nearby border in Tameside will be able to attend, making it even more unlikely for local children from the North Reddish area to get a place is important but if the Council doesn’t want to further embarrass itself on this point, then so be it.


FOI 1385

Professional indemnity for Harcourt Street Project Board

Forget this one then. I have tried. If the Harcourt Street Project Board find themselves personally liable because the professional indemnity insurance won’t cover them as regards to the dangerous situation they are creating for children, then I won’t shed any tears for them.


FOI 1497

CPO land – ownership

“Question – At the last Executive meeting Councillor Hogg stated that a council officer had visited Redrow the building firm to ask whether they owned the Harcourt Street CPO land. Please may I see any written report, handwritten notes, other notes minutes, letters, memos produced as a result of that meeting.”

Again, a very important issue. Although the Council has known for years that Redrow owned the CPO land, they told the Department for Children, Schools and Families that they didn’t know who owned the land. Using the FOIA I obtained a document from the DCSF in which they tell Stockport Council they have not tried hard enough to find the owners of the CPO land. So, what was said in the meeting between the Council official and Redrow about the land? I found out about this meeting by questioning an Executive Councillor at a Council meeting, so my question was not a futile one, was it. If the Council has evidence of the ownership of the land then they should disclose those details.

Of interest maybe is that this land was alleged to be part of a dodgy land deal in the 1980s. I have seen documents from Greater Manchester Council where they castigate Stockport Council for the decision to dispose of this land, which took place in secret with one senior councillor and one senior council officer. We must be open. It is very important that I see any documentary evidence produced as a result of that meeting between Redrow and the council officer with regards to the CPO land.


FOI 1498

Human Rights and planning

“Cllr Baker told me at tonight’s planning meeting that the human rights of local residents were considered regarding Harcourt Street. Department for Children Schools and Families’ lawyers, quite rightly, feel they were ignored. Nothing about the human rights of local people was mentioned at either the Tame Valley or the Planning and Highways Committee meeting – and I can get sworn statements to that effect from people who were present.

Therefore, the issue must have been addressed within the planning documents (and I don’t mean the blanket sheet at the front, I mean properly discussed). Please forward to me the documents in which the human rights of local people regarding the school on the toxic waste dump were raised and considered. These issues would be noise, light pollution, disturbance of landfill ground gases etc, and loss of amenity (the only reference I can remember to that was the providing of a MUGA a mile away, so not that good for little old ladies then.)”

Again, this should be answered. In fact, the DCSF lawyers wanted to know how SMBC had considered the human rights of local people. If you have to tell them, then you can cc me at the same time. There is no effort involved.


FOI 1499

FOI and EIR 2004 request CPO Harcourt Street

“Given that SMBC has told the Department for Schools Children and Families that is doesn’t know who owns the CPO land, I find it astonishing to read the attached document (paragraph beginning Redrow…….) in which the Council admits Redrow owns the land, and that discussions have taken place regarding this. If I didn’t know that Stockport Council was greener, stronger, safer and cleaner, I would suspect this was an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the lawyers at DCSF, who would then face even further grounds for judicial review.

Please may I have copies of all documents held by SMBC, or their arms length companies (only if appropriate), regarding discussions held between SMBC and Redrow or their parent company as regards to who actually owns the CPO land.

For background information, local people believe an iffy deal was struck between SMBC and developers regarding this land in the 1980s. I couldn’t possibly comment on the truth of these allegations, but I have certainly seen documents in SMBC’s own archives in which Greater Manchester Council objected vociferously to the deal that was done apparently in a secret meeting between a former senior councillor and a former senior council officer.”

The reasons for disclosure are as above.


FOI 1500

Harcourt Street press releases

It would appear that the Council was telling the press that the school would be costing £5.5 million when all the time they knew it would be £7.5 or even £8.2 million. I would like to see what the Council told the press regarding the cost of this school. Councillor Millard has told me he assumes the press made up the £5.5 million figure, but if it is in the press releases then I have evidence of what SMBC was telling the press about the cost. Why is this such a difficult request to comply with? These documents must be readily available.

It’s one thing for costs to escalate over the course of the project but to put a cost which it is known is completely false to Councillors, the public and media is virtually fraudulent. If this is what has happened, then it should be exposed. If the Council told the press the true cost of the school and the press accidentally printed a cost of £5.5 million, then that is fine. It is quite simple to arrive at the truth with regards to this issue.


FOI 1501

DCSF – human rights and ownership of CPO land

As above


FOI 1590

Financial anomalies – Harcourt Street

As above


In addition, you have failed to tell me of how I can investigate whether the lady who jumped off the Humber Bridge with her 9-year-old autistic son was having problems with SMBC/was a banned counciltaxpayer. There are other council taxpayers currently being pushed to the brink of suicide by this Council and I am happy to supply the Information Commission with any details regarding this. We shall be obtaining, if possible, the transcript of the trial of the town hall protestor who has been arrested over 50 times and is currently awaiting trial on a charge of assault with a sneeze with intent to inflict a council officer with a cold.

I shall cc this to the Information Commission, and hopefully they will see the serious nature of this issue – how children’s lives are being put in danger regarding the contamination and traffic arrangements at the proposed school, how there is no accountability regarding millions of pounds and how local people are bullied and pilloried when they try to speak out about what is going on here.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Mrs Oliver


2nd March 2009

Case Reference Number FS50232537

Dear Mrs Oliver

Information request to Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council (Stockport MBC).

Thank you for your recent correspondence received in this office over the last week in support of your complaint against Stockport MBC, and in particular their decision to deem your requests for information in respect of Harcourt Street School as vexatious under section 14(1) of the Freedom of Information Act.

The right to complain to the Information Commissioner is given under section 50 of the Act. However, a complaint may be deemed ineligible under section 50, if for example:

  • There is an undue delay before bringing a complaint to our attention, or;
  • You have not exhausted any complaints procedure which is provided by the public authority.

Therefore, before accepting complaints, the Commissioner generally expects complainants to allow public authorities the opportunity to respond to their appeal for a review of the handling of or decision regarding their FOI request.

Although there is no statutory time set out in the Act within which public authorities must complete a review, the Commissioner has issued guidance on this matter (Good Practice Guidance 5). The Commissioner considers that a reasonable time for completing an internal review is 20 working days from the date of the request for review, and in no case should the total time taken exceed 40 working days.

We have written to Stockport MBC to provide them with a copy of your letter dated 22/02/09 and asked them to treat it as a request for an internal review of their decision. We spoke with their representative last week who confirmed that due to problems with their email system your letter had not been received. We have recommended that they issue you with an internal review decision within 20 working days from the date of receipt of our letter. A copy of our letter is enclosed for your information.

From my letter to Stockport MBC you will see that significant or repeated unreasonable delays in dealing with internal reviews by public authorities are monitored and where appropriate further action may be taken.

This case has now been closed, however if you do not receive a response within 20 working days please contact us quoting the reference number on this letter.

If you remain dissatisfied after having exhausted Stockport MBC’s internal review process and would like us to look into the matter furhter, please contact us quoting the reference number on this letter and provide us with a copy of the internal review decision.

If we can be of any further assistance please contact our Helpline on 08456 306060, or 01625 545745 if you would prefer to call a ‘national rate’ number. Please quote your case reference number. You may also find some useful information on our website at

I have reproduced below a document describing how we deal with Freedom of Information complaints.

Yours sincerely

Jim Dunn

FoI Case Officer

FoI Case Reception Unit

The Information Commissioner’s Office