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Local editor slams ministers’ secrecy over Freedom of Information snub

Richard Gurner newA local editor has vowed to take on the UK Government after it refused to reveal why his patch was declined priority status for new funding.

Caerphilly Observer editor Richard Gurner is calling for an internal review after his title’s Freedom of Information request was rejected by the Government.

The Observer had asked how Caerphilly County Borough had been scored when it was turned down as one of 100 priority areas for the £220m Community Renewal Fund.

But the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government rejected the request, claiming it was “not in the public interest to disclose this information at this time”.

The Community Renewal Fund is a precursor to the Shared Prosperity Fund, which will be introduced next year and is set to replace European Union funding that Wales has lost because of Brexit.

According to the Observer, there is a fear” Caerphilly could now miss out on the Shared Prosperity Fund because it has not been deemed a priority.

In its response to the FoI, MHCLG told the Observer the information was “going to be published and it is reasonable not to make it available until then”.

The Ministry added: “The public interest in favour of not disclosing at this time, taking account of the intention to publish, is to allow the relevant officials and ministers time to make use of the information prior to publication as part of the decision-making process for the fund.

“It is important they are able to consider all the information for bids swiftly and without interruption in order to meet the stated deadlines of the fund.”

Richard, pictured, told HTFP in response: “Our readers are entitled to know why they have not been deemed a priority by the UK Government in terms of accessing this new funding.

“While public bodies can use this exemption under the Freedom of Information Act, it has been known for such information to then not be published – in effect kicking the can down a never-ending road.

“It is a loophole that should be closed, but one I suspect won’t.

“We will be asking for an internal review and will take it to the ICO if need be.”