Oldham Council have been wasting public money for over four years on the failed Hotel Future scheme but the public have no right to ask how much.

Oldham Council are grasping at excusatory straws so they don’t have to publish how much money they wasted on over four years of the Hotel Future development. The latest ridiculous excuse is because they are in discussion with hotel operators to run some form of hotel on the site. This argument is completely irrelevant as these operators have contributed nothing to the scheme and we have only requested council spending.

After Oldham Council refused our freedom of information request yesterday we have asked them to make an internal review, we don’t expect this to be successful but it is necessary before we submit a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office

Dear Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council’s handling of my FOI request ‘Costs incurred by Oldham Council for the now defunct Hotel Future scheme up to 2017’.

There is absolutely no evidence that the Hotel Future scheme, a functional hotel which is also a training academy, is still operational five years after being announced. Oldham council’s town centre plans published in July show that the scheme has been replaced with just a traditional hotel and the public are being asked to participate in a consultation for that when the costs of multiple failed regeneration schemes have been purposely withheld to avoid public scrutiny. The Manchester Hoteliers Association who devised the Hotel Future scheme and where primary developers before Oldham Council applied to become partners have published no information about the scheme for four years and the official website has reverted to a holding page and the twitter account has been silent for over two years. Oldham Council stated in documents several years ago that the only root available would be to take over the entire scheme and self-develop. You are now refusing to publish the cost because Oldham Council is in discussion with hoteliers to operate the hotel if it ever gets developed. Discussing the scheme with operators has no relevance to how much money Oldham council has spent over the years as these potential operators have contributed nothing to the financing of the scheme over the last four to five years. It is blatantly obvious the council does not wish to ever let the Oldham public know about the huge amounts of money and thousands of employee hours that have been squandered on multiple Hotel Future delivery and planning variations all of which have failed. Tucked away on the Oldham Council website in the recent key decisions document is a scheme called Hotel Oldham which is completely devoid of any details so one can only presume that this replaces the defunct Hotel Future.

Oldham Council’s refusal for our freedom of information request

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Oldham Council has a duty to supply any information on request, unless there is an exemption. It is the Council’s policy only to apply the exemptions where there is a genuine risk of harm or prejudice. In such cases, we will still provide information if it is in the public interest to do so.

In this instance, we believe that it is not in the public interest to disclose the information to you. Information about the exemption is included here.

. The Council is in discussions with a number of hotel operators regarding the project and we therefore cannot disclose the information because we believe it would unfairly prejudice their commercial interests. We do not believe that the public interest in disclosure is proportionate to the damage that would be caused

. In addition we cannot disclose the information because we believe it would prejudice the Council’s ability to get good value for money when dealing with commercial companies.

If you disagree with the exemption applied to this information, you may appeal to:

Paul Entwistle
Borough Solicitor
Oldham Borough Council