Lancashire County Council has settled a case, dating back nearly two decades, in which social care services provided by the authority were found to have failed two of its residents.
The decision was taken in private by council leader Geoff Driver back in May, under powers given to him by the council’s constitution. He approved a recommendation made to settle the claim, relating to care provided by the county between the late 1990s and the year 2000.
A report to explain the so-called ‘key decision’ noted that it had to be implemented immediately, “as any delay could have adversely affected the execution of the county council’s responsibilities”.
But when the document was presented to a meeting of the full council, one member complained that it revealed “absolutely nothing” - and the authority’s chief executive agreed.
Labour’s Erica Lewis told fellow councillors that she had spoken to officers, who had explained the case to her in as much detail as they were allowed. But she added:
“I think it is quite a strange process to send a report to council which essentially says absolutely nothing. It was possible for officers to provide me with sufficient detail to address my question, without breaching any of the required confidentiality.”
Chief Executive Angie Ridgwell agreed with what she said was “a very good point”, before giving members more information about the case.
“The [full] report did contain extremely sensitive information about a legal case relating to significant failings in the social care provided to two people.
“Given the nature of the issue and the necessity to maintain the details of the legal proceedings [as] confidential, limited information was provided.
“But County Cllr Lewis is quite right - it was too limited and, moving forward, we will make sure we give the basic information so that members can at least understand the nature of the decisions being taken,” Ms. Ridgwell said.
The summary report shown to members explained that the full document contained information “likely to reveal the identity of an individual”.
“It is considered that in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption [against publishing the details] outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information,” the report concluded.