28th Jun, 2022

Coventry council accused of cover-up after denying information to campaigner

Lauren Clarke 25th Jan, 2017 Updated: 26th Jan, 2017

COVENTRY council has been accused of a cover-up to deny a resident his legal right to information.

Westwood resident Richard Heneghan says the council has made him feel like ‘a second class citizen’ after it appeared to shut him out of key democratic processes – including talking to councillors and receiving meaningful Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests.

Mr Heneghan has long campaigned for refunds to be issued to motorists stung in the on-going bus gate fiasco and forced the council to remove ‘dangerous’ and non-compliant signs he had spotted around the city last year.

But in September last year, all councillors were sent an email asking them not to have any correspondence with him.

And when he submitted a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request about what he believes are ‘falsified’ council legal documents his request was denied on the grounds it was ‘vexatious’.

Mr Heneghan said: “It is concerning that Coventry council appear to be putting their enmity towards myself before public safety.

“Given the sheer amount of errors and false statements the Council have provided thus far, it is not unreasonable nor vexatious to request documentary evidence to substantiate their responses.

“I have been made to feel like a second class citizen.

“I am not not afforded the same legal rights as other residents, simply because the council view me as a harbinger of bad news.

“I feel completely disenfranchised and alienated from a city I am proud to call home, all for having the safety of the public at heart.”

In rejecting Mr Heneghan’s FOI request, the council said it would not be replying as it considered his request ‘vexations’.

It went on to claim his months of correspondence with various councillors and officers had caused ‘disproportionate and unjustified level of disruption and distress’ and that responding to him would only result in further correspondence.

But Coun Tim Mayer (Conservative, Westwood) argues the council’s FOI refusal looks more like an attempt to evade providing information.

He denied claims Mr Heneghan’s emails had been vexatious, simply saying he had been exercising his legal right to seek answers.

Shadow member for city services, Coun Gary Ridley added the Coventry Conservatives may now consider referring this matter to the ombusdman and other regulatory bodies.

He said: “Freedom of Information is the cornerstone of our democracy.

“It was introduced to encourage openness and accountability amongst public bodies.

“I’m deeply concerned by any suggestion that our own council in Coventry are refusing to engage with residents.

“This would put the organisation at odds with these values at a time when public confidence in politicians is already low.”

“I’ll be raising this matter with the local authority to try and understand their reasoning, whether this is an isolated incident or something more endemic.”

A council spokesperson rejected the accusations and said FOI requests were judged on the content of the request, not who sent it.

They added: “The Council has absolutely not ‘banned’ anyone from submitting an FOI Request.

“If a requester is dissatisfied with the response to an FOI request, they can ask for a review of the response and/or refer the matter to the Information Commissioner.”

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