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Weekly accuses council of ‘Trumpian’ behaviour over FoI battle

A weekly newspaper has accused a council of “Trumpian” behaviour over its failure to make information public.

The Falmouth Packet has criticised Cornwall Council after it released just 17 of 1,700 pages of emails between the council’s leader, chief executive and other senior officials.

Release of the emails, which discussed the failed bid for a Mayor of Cornwall, had been demanded by independent councillor Tim Dwelly under the Freedom of Information Act, but the council claimed it was in the public interest to keep most of the communications secret on the grounds that it would “prejudice the free and frank exchange of advice and views”.

The matter is being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office, according to the Packet, while the authority itself has claimed only 45 pages were within the scope of the request.


In its anonymised weekly ‘Skipper’ column, logo pictured above, the Packet took aim at the authority over the decision.

The author of ‘Skipper’ wrote: “It is the opinion of this Skipper, dear reader, that Cornwall Council’s response to this request is categorically Trumpian and shows a blatant disregard for the concept of transparency and the idea that those in power should be held to account.

“It seems to me that the Conservatives at both a local and national level have taken too much notice of the way in which politicians such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson conduct themselves.

“The attitudes billowing out of both New County Hall and Westminster like sewage onto Cornish beaches reek of: ‘Who cares what the people think, we’ll do as we please and no one can tell us otherwise.’

“Do yourself a favour, Cornwall, and show them exactly who they are accountable to.”

In its response to Councillor Dwelly, the council “concluded that the public interest test favours non-disclosure because although disclosure of this information would increase access to information held by the authority and allow scrutiny of the public authority’s decisions it would also prejudice the free and frank exchange of advice and views for the purpose of deliberation”.

It added: “In conclusion, in all circumstances of this case we are of the opinion that the balance of public interest favours non-disclosure of this information at this time.”

In response to the Packet’s column, a Cornwall Council spokesman said: “The article this opinion column is based upon fails to state that 562 pages of potentially relevant information were further refined to produce a final 45 pages of information that fell within the scope of the request.

“Only those 45 pages were assessed in accordance with the legal tests.

“It is therefore entirely wrong to suggest that the council withheld 97pc of information given that only 45 pages were within the scope of the request, of which 25 were withheld for the reasons outlined.”