Freedom of information response

Renewable energy schemes

Publication date: 
Thursday 10 September 2020
Request: 
  1. How much money has Thurrock Council invested in each of the last five financial years into renewable energy schemes?
  2. Please provide the full company names of any companies to which Thurrock Council has made renewable energy investments including the dates the investments were made and the amount invested on each occasion.
  3. In relation to each investment, what returns were offered in exchange for them?
  4. What due diligence did Thurrock Council undertake in relation to each investment in renewable energy over the last five years?
  5. What is the Thurrock Council policy when making investments using money belonging to, or borrowed by, Thurrock Council?
  6. What is the maximum amount of money that can be spent or invested by a Thurrock Council employee without the need for authority from an elected Member or Committee?
Response: 

1.

15/16 Nil

16/17 £34m

17/18 £326m

18/19 £328.8m

19/20 £86.3m

20/21 to date £9.8m

2/3.

In issuing our response the Council has applied S43 of the Freedom of Information Act.  Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it).  A commercial interest relates to a person’s ability to successfully participate in a commercial activity, i.e. the purchase and the sale of goods or services. 

The Council have considered the public interest test in relation to section 43 (2) in releasing the information in scope of this request. The outcome of this is below.

Public interest in disclosure:

  • It would inform the public of the activities carried out on their behalf and to scrutinise public monies spent

Public interest to maintain the exemption:

  • Disclosure would result in the Council’s working relationships with lenders/borrowers breaking down. For example, Authority A that has loaned the Council money at an agreed rate, may not be happy to establish that we have paid a higher rate to Authority B.  The Council would not able to obtain the lower rate again resulting in a negative commercial disadvantage
  • Disclosure of information would result in other lenders/borrowers that offer similar investment/loan opportunities not wanting to work with the Council due to commercially sensitive information being released by the Council with regards to prior investments
  • Disclosure would weaken the Council’s position to be able to negotiate competitively in the future
  • Disclosure of information would have a detrimental impact on the commercial interests of the other parties involved, as this would publically detail commercially sensitive information. This would damage the lenders/Investor’s competitive position
  • Disclosure would reduce the spend the Council has (commercial interests), which would directly impact the services we are able to provide to our residents
  • Disclosure of information would negatively impact the Councils reputation due to loss of investor/lender confidence in the Council

Based on the above, it is the Council’s view that there is a stronger public interest to engage the exemption for section 43 (2). The key reasons for this is as follows:

  • The public would only be interested in this information if their service provision were to reduce and/or stop completely
  • All the time the Council are able to maximise its funds in this way and maintain its service provision, there is no strong public interest in favour of disclosure of this level of detail
  • The Council has a duty to its residents to obtain the best loan opportunities to maximise its available spend and/or budget. If it were to release the details related to the rates paid or charged, then this directly effects our short and long term borrowing position. Rates on borrowing could increase and the rates the Council charge could reduce. This will impact negatively on the Council’s available budget and in-turn will impact the services we provide to our residents.

4. Full due diligence was carried out by industry standard experts for the Legal, Technical and Financial details of all renewable energy investments.

5/6. Full details of the investment policy can be found on the Council’s website at the annual Council Budget meetings held in February each year under the now named Capital Strategy (formerly the Annual Borrowing and Investment Strategy). Please see link to 20/21 item 79. https://democracy.thurrock.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=129&MID=5583#AI11253

The Long Term Investment Strategy is also on the Council’s website at the October 2017 Council meeting. https://democracy.thurrock.gov.uk/documents/s13458/Investment%20and%20Treasury%20Management%20Strategy.pdf

All delegations can be found in the Council’s Constitution also on the Council’s website

https://www.thurrock.gov.uk/constitution-of-council/thurrock-council-constitution

You are free to use any information supplied to you for your own use, including non-commercial research purposes. However, any other type of re-use, for example, by publishing the information or issuing copies to the public will require the permission of the copyright owner.

Where the copyright is owned by Thurrock Council, you must apply to the Council to re-use the information.  Please email information.matters@thurrock.gov.uk if you wish to re-use the information you have been supplied. For information where the copyright is owned by another person or organisation, you must apply to the copyright owner to obtain their permission.

Request reference:
FOI 10180