We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Shock as Council claims Lib Dem Leader a "Theft Risk" to hide information

March 24, 2015 5:31 PM

Local councillor Jon Hubbard has reacted with shock and anger after Wiltshire Council refused to disclose to him the costs of redundant buildings in the County claiming that if they shared this information with him he might plan a tour of the county to steal copper wire and roofing lead from the buildings!

Commenting on the refusal to disclose the information the Melksham Councillor said, "Frankly I am astonished that they think this is an acceptable response.

"We have known for some time that this Conservative administration have been wasting money on empty buildings, whilst at the same time scrapping much valued services such as the Wiltshire Hopper, but I never thought they would stoop so low as to refuse to share information with an elected member of the council, with the leader of the main opposition group on the council no less, on the basis that they thought he would go and raid the buildings!

"This outrageous accusation shows the contempt that the Conservative administration have for not only other elected councillors but the public generally."

Cllr Hubbard has promised that his efforts to expose the money Wiltshire Council is spending on keeping buildings empty will not end following this refusal. He went on to say: "I recently discovered that over £11,000 a year is being spent keeping the old Youth Development Centre in Melksham closed and subsequently asked for a list of other empty building and the costs of keeping them empty.

"As it seems the Council will only give me the details of individual buildings I am now asking the public to send me details of any empty Wiltshire Council buildings in their communities and I will place individual requests for each building. Wiltshire Council must stop using these bully-boy tactics to try and protect their already shoddy reputation and accept that the people are not prepared to ignore this sort of behaviour."

The original request sent to Wiltshire Council read:

I am writing today to make a freedom of information request with regards to vacant properties owned by the Council across the County. I would like a full list of all Council owned properties including but not limited to Youth centres that are currently vacant across the County and what the cost of maintaining these properties is.

Please break down the costs for each building and include all costs and associated costs including but not limited to NNDR, Utilities, Security, Key Holding and care-taking.

The response received from Wiltshire Council read:

Request for information - reference RFI - ENQ03337-REQ001

Thank you for your request received on Tuesday, 03 March 2015

We have considered your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and have taken the decision to withhold the information, relying on Section 31 of the Act as this relates to Section 31(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act (prevention and detection of crime).

Some of the exemptions under the Act are absolute, and some are qualified. The qualified exemptions are subject to the public interest test. Section 31 is an absolute exemption and the public interest test is not required.
We do hold a list of vacant empty buildings but releasing an itemised list such as this out into the public domain could be used to plan a trip around the county to strip the copper wire and lead from the roof of each property.