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Council wins extension of time in tribunal case over investment in solar farms

Thurrock Council has been given an extension of time to make its case in a First Tier Tribunal case over disclosures sought by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ).

The BIJ won an interim ruling in part last month against the Information Commissioner's Office to require Thurrock to disclose information about its investments in solar farms.

It has said that Thurrock borrowed almost £1bn from other public bodies to invest in green energy schemes.

A Thurrock statement said: “Thurrock Council has been granted a short extension until 26 April to file its detailed submission. The documents will be filed with the tribunal in time for this new deadline.

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“The council welcomes the opportunity to join and participate in the hearing to support the tribunal to understand the council’s position on the application of an exemption under section 36(2) of the FOIA which maintains that disclosure of this specific information would create prejudice in the council being able to conduct public affairs.”

According to the Bureau the loans and investments were overseen by finance director Sean Clark, who was also responsible for dealing with accounts-related requests under the Freedom of Information Act and who rejected the BIJ's request to reveal which councils Thurrock had borrowed from and what the money had financed.

Thurrock said last month the delegated borrowing was approved by councillors “on numerous occasions through budget processes” and the council had recently unanimously agreed its investment approach, which had “raised over £70m for Thurrock services over the last two years and £13.5m for other councils and emergency services pension funds in 2019-20, while also massively investing in green renewable energy and technology”.

Mark Smulian

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