A local authority has apologised for refusing to name four tax-avoiding councillors after a Freedom of Information battle with a regional daily.
The move marks a U-turn for the initially defiant council, which paid £1,200 for external legal advice and earmarked an estimated £3,500 for further legal costs to fight the ICO’s ruling.
The Post has now named Arif Hussain, Pauleen and Ron Grahame and Kim Groves as the four councillors who received a summons during the last two financial years.
Announcing the U-turn, council chief executive Tom Riordan said: “Sometimes we don’t get things right and we need to acknowledge that, apologise, and make sure we learn from it. That’s what we are doing today.
“As a council we place very high value on being open, honest and transparent and regret that in this instance our actions may not have been viewed in this particular way by the general public.”
He further acknowledged that “more harm than good is likely to be achieved by further appealing our case”.
In a comment piece, YP opinion editor Tom Richmond said: “That the authority has now named Arif Hussain, Pauleen and Ron Grahame and Kim Groves – all Labour councillors – matters not a jot, as without the determination of the Yorkshire Post to elicit the truth, the public would be none the wiser.
“Even though most responsible councils have accepted, in an era of transparency, the need for full disclosure because of the high standards expected of elected representatives, Leeds Council had the arrogance to think it could hoodwink ratepayers and then seek to launch a legal block – paid for with public money – to defy not only the Yorkshire Post but the Information Commissioner, who supported our investigation, also.
“Worryingly, having spent £1,200 on external legal advice, a further £3,500 of public money was then set aside to ensure the authority could continue to suppress publication of the relevant details.
“This matters. It is illegal for councillors to take part in spending decisions when they are in council tax arrears. Which strategic decisions, therefore, are now null and void? We deserve to know.”