Wefan Gymraeg

University of South Wales found to have breached Freedom of Information Act

Assembly candidate Paul Halliday has called on the Vice Chancellor of the University of South Wales to resign after the Information Commissioner found the decisions she made breached sections of the Freedom of Information Act.

Welsh Liberal Democrat campaigner Paul Halliday requested that the university publish papers that informed their decision to close the Caerleon campus. The university took 77 working days to respond with a refusal to share the information that had been requested. He then referred it to the Information Commissioner.

The report reveals that the Vice Chancellor, Julie Lydon, made the decision to withhold the information that had been requested.

The report states: “The Commissioner does not give much weight to the argument presented by the University in favour of maintaining the exception in relation to the Minutes. Conversely, he does recognise the importance of transparency and accountability in this case and considers this to carry significant weight. The Commissioner believes the disclosure of the Minutes would improve public understanding for the rationale for the decision to close Caerleon campus and go some way to allow for scrutiny of the University’s internal deliberation processes to ensure they are robust.”

The Information Commissioner found that the reason to withhold some information “did not outweigh the public interest” and “that the University breached sections 10(1) and 17(1) in failing to disclose information relevant to the request and failing to issue a refusal notice within the required timescales.”

The Commissioner has stated that the University must now provide some of the information Mr Halliday requested within 35 days.

Paul Halliday, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Candidate for Newport East, said:

“I welcome the Commissioner’s decision and feel vindicated that I have taken the university on over this important issue.

“It’s appalling the university took 77 working days to tell me they weren’t going to make the information public. It’s even worse that we now know they should have made the information public in the first place. Whatever happened to transparency?

“Due to the loss of Caerleon campus, an estimated £15m to £20m will be lost each year to the region’s economy, much of it removed to Cardiff. That is an absolute disgrace.

“Under this Vice Chancellor we’ve seen Caerleon campus be both run down and sold off, we’ve see her waste almost a million pounds on a London vanity project that failed, and we now see her making the wrong decision with regards to my FOI request. This clearly isn’t good enough and she should consider her position.”

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