Final ruling accepts importance of some redaction in the interests of commercial confidentiality

The final phase of the Information Tribunal has concluded amicably with a balanced decision that has been welcomed by East Devon District Council. The Tribunal has agreed that Appendix B in Report 5, which was awaiting permission from the Tribunal to be published, does contain commercially sensitive information, but can now be published online with redactions (blacked out text), together with Appendix B from each of the reports 1,2, 3, 4, 5A and 6 and Report No 7. The redacted information will protect third party interests, involved in the sale of the council’s headquarters in Sidmouth.

Preparations are already being made to add these documents to the historical archive on the East Devon District Council website.

Commenting on the Tribunal’s outcome, Deputy Chief Executive, Richard Cohen said:

While we believe that it is important for us to be able to publish all these reports now, we are pleased that the Tribunal has recognised the importance of maintaining confidentiality around the discussions on potential sites for the relocation and that they have accepted our need to protect the commercial interests of third parties involved in contractual negotiations. Equally important, the Tribunal has also acknowledged the significance of our obligation to achieve best value for public funds.

It has never been our wish to go to a Tribunal hearing and we have repeatedly tried to seek resolution in correspondence, which would have been quicker and cheaper. However, it was important that we have been able to maintain the right to protect the confidentiality of third parties, including local businesses, and legal advice.

We will now be publishing all of the reports (with some redactions) in their entirety and are glad that this process has now reached a satisfactory conclusion. However, it has taken far longer than we could ever have anticipated or have wished.