Thursday 9 January 2014

Case of the purloined letter

For those that remember a post in October concerning the financing of the Pleasurama development here I am reproducing the Freedom of Information request. (be mindful that this should take a maximum of 20 working days)

sent 24/10/2013

Dear Harvey
Please treat this as a formal request for information (FOIA request).

The Task & Finish Panel have recently asked a series of questions to Dr. Sue McGonical which have now been published on the TDC website as an appendix to the upcoming meeting on the 31st October 2013. As the answers are in the public domain I would like to raise some questions under an FOIA.
Also, I believe, you stated at a previous meeting of the T&F you said that a full disclosure of all papers was not an issue as only current negotiations would remain confidential. Is that still the case?

Both Ian Driver and Richard Nicholson asked broadly the same question as follows:-

Letter from SFP Ventures UK Ltd dated 2 June 2009 page 27: This letter states that Wetmore Investments will be funding the construction of the hotel through a £5million  investment.  What  checks  did  the  Council make  into  the  validity  of  this  claim  e.g.  obtaining copies  of  development  agreements  with  SFP,  and what  steps  did  the  council  take  to  check  the  bonafides  of  Wetmore  Investments  e.g.  securing information  about  company  registration  and ownership of Wetmore Investments and copies of its accounts.  Was  Wetmore  Investment  ever  contacted by the council?

Dr. Sue’s answer

External solicitors were used to validate the ability of Wetmore to provide the agreed level of finance, and that a binding legal agreement was in existence.

Having investigated both SFP and TDC over this affair for many months and accumulated much written evidence Dr. Sue’s answer comes like a bolt out of the blue and raises more questions than answers.

In the interest of openness please would you answer the following:-

        Who were the External Solicitors?   


        Who instructed them and the date they were formally engaged?

    They  were not instructed by the Council as they were the developers solicitors.
     What was their brief?    

      The Council had asked the developers solicitors  to confirm that their client held a genuine offer of funding from Wetmore Investments  in respect of the construction of the hotel and that a binding funding  agreement was in place.

     Was their final report to Council Verbal or written?  

      The Council did not receive a report, only a letter of confirmation from Messrs Prettys. However, ths letter was received  by the Council in confidence and  therefore will not be disclosed to you - Section 41 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 refers.

     Where is this report?  

   Please see my reply to question 4 above

      Why wasn’t it included in the Pleasurama file given to the members of the T&F panel?   

   This is a request for an explanation, not a request for recorded information

      Who are Wetmore?    

    The Council hold no relevant information

    Where are they based?  

   The Council hold no relevant information

    What was their financial standing?  

   The Council hold no relevant information

.   How long was the offer of £5M available for?  

   The Council hold no relevant information

.   Who owns Wetmore?    

The Council hold no relevant information. Please note that at the meeting  of the Pleasurama Site Development Review Task & Finish Group held on 31October 2013, officers advised the Group that no further due diligence had been carried out in respect of Wetmore Investments  other than the confirmation letter sought from Messr Pretty's.

     How much was the Solicitor Invoice for?  

   There was no invoice as Messrs. Pretty's were not the Council's solicitors

     When was it paid?

.   Who authorised payment?

.   Why weren’t the findings part of the appendixes to the 2009 agreement?  

   This is a request for an explanation not a request for recorded information.

  My response was to ask the following questions


     Thank  you for your belated response.
    In your answer to question 4 and your responses to the T&F panel you stated all the evidence was available and was handed over.

        Can you explain why this letter from Prettys has never been disclosed to the T&F and why it is not included in the appendixes of the 2009 agreement? Surely this is material evidence that should have been disclosed to the T&F panel.
        Finally I would like to remind you that you stated to the T&F that in your opinion there was nothing in the 2009 agreement that should not be in the public domain. Have you changed your mind?