Lincolnshire charity wins freedom of information battle with Stamford Town Council

Riverside Association of Music & Arts sought to see documents about cancellation of festival

Riverside Festival
Riverside Festival

An arts charity in Lincolnshire has won a year-long battle with Stamford Town Council over its refusal to release documents relating to a cancelled arts festival.

The Riverside Association of Music & Arts holds the annual Riverside Festival on Stamford Meadows, but the 2011 event was cancelled after the town council changed its public open spaces and grants policies.

The arts charity made a series of requests under the Freedom of Information Act to the council relating to the policy changes and the festival, but the council did not release the documents.

Last autumn, the Information Commissioner ruled that the council had breached the Freedom of Information Act on 17 occasions and ordered it to comply within 35 working days. But the council failed to comply fully and faced possible legal action.

The council and festival subsequently reached an agreement after the council admitted a number of weaknesses in dealing with the requests and promised to make improvements. Riverside has agreed to draw a line under its complaints and has also received an apology from the council.

Jenny Collins, director and trustee of the Riverside Association of Music & Arts, said: "The council made finding information a bureaucratic nightmare for us, even though we’re staffed by volunteers. It acted in a very Vicar of Dibley-like way.

"It was clear from the various decisions it made that it didn’t understand the freedom of information process. We feel that it’s a significant victory for a small charity like ourselves."

The council has agreed to allow the Riverside Festival to return to Stamford Meadows in July 2012.

In a statement, the council said: "Representatives of Stamford Town Council have been meeting with Riverside organisers over the past few months. Putting behind them all previous contentious issues to make a fresh start, these meetings have proved very productive and are set to continue on a regular basis in the future.

"As a result of these meetings, a set of conditions has been applied to the festival and Riverside’s organisers have agreed to some changes in the future operation of the festival."

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