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Daily wins freedom of information fight over ‘secretive’ council policy

A regional daily has won its fight to reveal details of a council’s “secretive” tree-felling policy after threatening to take the case to the Information Commissioner.

The Yorkshire Post had been locked in a Freedom of Information battle with Sheffield City Council, after the authority rejected a request to make public its official contractual policy for tree replacement work.

Thousands of trees have been cut down part of a 25-year highways maintenance contract between the council and a company called Amey, but campaigners have claimed healthy trees have been felled as part of the scheme.

The council originally turned down the Post’s FoI on the grounds that keeping the information secret was for the “greater good” – but the policy document was finally handed over to the paper late on Monday evening.

The YP splashed on the latest revelations yesterday

The YP splashed on the latest revelations yesterday

The U-turn comes after the Leeds-based daily vowed to take its fight to reveal more details about the scheme to the Information Commissioner last month.

The Post made an official complaint to the ICO on 8 May after repeated requests for the council to review its initial decision internally were ignored.

A week later, the council finally handed over the documents in question.

As a result, the Post was able to reveal that the contract focuses on minimising maintenance costs – while containing no mention of removals only happening as a “last resort” as the authority has repeatedly claimed in the past.

Features writer Chris Burn, who has worked on the story, told HTFP: “I am pleased the Yorkshire Post has been able to bring this important information to light.

“This is the latest in a string of revelations relating to the secretive £2.2bn PFI contract this felling work is being carried out under and it appears there is still plenty more to be revealed in the coming weeks and months.”

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