Signed and sealed… nine months before you knew

New documents released by Kent County Council under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the controversial Wye Concordat was agreed in outline in March last year, and the first version signed only two months later. The residents of Wye had to wait until last December for news of the plan, which arrived seven months after the ink had dried on a draft agreement signed by the leaders of Ashford Borough Council, Paul Clokie, KCC, Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, and the rector of Imperial College, Sir Richard Sykes.

The statement, made in response to a request by save-wye.org, details the timetable leading up to the news that rocked the Wye area in December. It reveals…

  • Discussions about the idea were initiated by Imperial College’s announcement in August 2004 that the Wye campus had to be restructured because it was unviable.
  • KCC representatives were working alongside Imperial staff on the future of Wye from November 2004. It was only in January 2005, however, that KCC and Imperial College officials decided ‘that it was essential in future for ABC to be involved in these free and frank discussions’.
  • On March 4 last year the three parties met and agreed that the proposal to create a ‘world-class research facility’ could ‘go abroad’. As a result, ‘It was agreed KCC, ABC and ICL should adopt a joined-up approach in exploring the concept and that a tripartite concordat should be signed to this effect.’
  • At the March meeting Ernst & Young were appointed by ICL to ‘lead investigations into potential infrastructure costs and funding opportunities’.

The local authority members then put their names to the document in April, and Sir Richard Sykes signed on behalf of Imperial a few weeks later. Later meetings discussed a formal signing of the final Concordat version in public on December 6. But in fact that happened in private… and the public knew nothing until the press release hit immediately afterwards. You can read the entire statement made by KCC to this website below.

KCC say it may withold further information on the subject in response to our request under two exemptions allowed by the FoI act:

  • Section 36 applies to information, which if disclosed, is likely to have the adverse effects of inhibiting (i) the free and frank provision of advice, (ii) the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation, or (iii) would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs.
  • Section 43(2) says information is exempt information if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the council).

We have been promised a decision on whether more information will be released on the run-up to the Concordat by February 27.

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About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome. Most recent book the novel of the Danish TV series, The Killing.
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