Angus recycling review group discussions will remain secret after FOI refusal

© DC Thomson
Monifieth recycling centre.

A wall of secrecy has been put up over the discussions about Angus Council’s recycling centre re-think which saved the Monifieth facility.

A review of skip site proposals by the new coalition administration has seen the threat of closure lifted from the burgh for the next 12 months as the authority wrestles with district-wide residual waste provision for the future.

But the u-turn came at both financial and political cost, with £50,000 pumped into the 12-week member/officer group (MOG) probe and the subsequent resignations from the ruling group of both depute council leader David Fairweather and Carnoustie councillor David Cheape.

The two Independent members were highly critical of the handling of the skip sites issue.

The authority has now blocked a Freedom of Information request for the release of the minutes of MOG meetings which were held following its formation in late May.

In a response to The Courier, the council’s legal department said it has decided the minutes were exempt from release under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 “as release would make available internal communications between elected members and officers of the council.”

The response added: “In carrying out the public interest test, we have taken into consideration: the interest of the public in local recycling arrangements; transparency of the council’s decision making process; the importance of the council being able to explore various options with the benefit of free and frank deliberation outwith the public sphere.

It continued: “In coming to a decision, we have taken the view that it would not be in the public interest to publish information on ongoing proceedings, internal discussions and communications before proposals have been firmed up and have been formally submitted to elected members for decision.”

Although the closure of any skip site has been delayed for a year due to a wide-ranging review of residual waste disposal, the council has confirmed the MOG was disbanded after fulfilling its specific requirement of reviewing the recycling centre proposals previously drawn up.

Monifieth and Sidlaws SNP councillor Sheila Hands, who sat on the MOG, said she was puzzled by the blanket block on any information being released.

She said: “I can’t see why consideration couldn’t have been given to the release of some of the documents.

“Where possible, I think the actions of councillors and officers should be up for sensible public scrutiny.”

She also repeated criticism of the handling of the matter, which saw public meetings held in Monifieth and Kirriemuir just before the council’s decision, but after the final MOG meeting.

She said: “I still maintain my position that it was totally absurd having a public meeting at the end of the process.

“We should have had this at the start. Sitting at the meeting knowing facts that the public didn’t meant raised expectations.

“I feel really sorry for recycling centre employees throughout this entire process and we still don’t have any certainty”.