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Community Benefits

Imprisonment of Information

We believe that the Community Benefits scheme for shale gas is shoddily put together, inadequately thought through and shows every sign of being policy made on the hoof.

It talks fuzzily of payments to communities without defining what a community is, it talks about making payments to county councils when they are te ones being asked to make decisions on related planning applications and it suggests amounts which would scarcely pay for a 20 MPH scheme in Lancashire, let alone provide any meaningful compensation for the financial loss and loss of amenity that would be suffered if shale gas exploration and production were allowed to go ahead.

We have asked Mark Menzies MP whether he agrees that there would be a conflict of interest if County Councils both made decisions on planning applications and received funds if, and only, if they were granted. He has not replied.

We made a Freedom of information Request to the DECC to find out more about the background nearly 2 months ago. We asked for

(a) All submissions to DECC Ministers which concern community benefits
relating to shale gas or fracking during the period 1 January 2012 to the date of
this email;

(b) All correspondence between DECC Ministers and the Office of
Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO) which concern community benefits
relating to shale gas or fracking during the same period.

(c) All correspondence between DECC Ministers and Cuadrilla Resources (or
associated companies) on the subject of said community benefits during the
same period.

We finally received this response today from a staffer at the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil

Thank you for your email of 10th July 2013 where you requested the following
information:

(a) All submissions to DECC Ministers which concern community benefits relating to shale gas or fracking during the period 1 January 2012 to the date of this email;

(b) All correspondence between DECC Ministers and the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO) which concern community benefits relating to shale gas or fracking during the same period.

(c) All correspondence between DECC Ministers and Cuadrilla Resources (or associated companies) on the subject of said community benefits during the same period.

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’), you have the right to:
• know whether we hold the information you require
• be provided with that information (subject to any exemptions under the Act which may apply).

We can confirm that we hold information in the scope of your questions (a) and (b).

In relation to the information requested under (a) and (b), we believe this information is exempt from disclosure under Section 35(1)(a) of the Freedom of
Information Act, which provides that information may be exempt from disclosure where it relates to the formulation and development of government policy.
The exemption from disclosure under Section 35(1) (a) of the Act is subject to a public interest test.

We recognise that there is a general public interest in the disclosure of information, as greater transparency makes government more accountable, and there is a public interest in being able to assess the quality of information and advice given to Ministers, which is used in subsequent policy formulation.

However, there is also a public interest in the government making the best possible decisions. Good government depends on good decision-making and this needs to be based on the best advice available and a full consideration of all the options without fear of premature disclosure. As the shale gas industry is at an early stage, policy on community benefits for shale gas is being formulated and reviewed as companies move into exploration and production phases and the industry develops operating experience. The onshore industry launched the Community Engagement Charter on 27 June 2013 and has committed to keeping the Charter and interaction with local communities under review. Industry will be consulting communities on the benefits that will be offered to them, and Ministers will continue to monitor developments in this area. Government policy on community benefits for shale will be formulated and reviewed in light of these developments.

We believe that any disclosure of information of the type specified would prejudice the ability of Ministers and officials to conduct rigorous and candid risk assessments of their policies and programmes including considerations of the pros and cons without there being premature disclosure which might close off better options. In our view, the balance of public interest therefore lies in withholding the information you have requested.

We can confirm that we do not hold the information requested under (c).

We have asked for a review of this decision

We need to be able to see what communication is happening around these community benefits because it is currently being handled in such an obviously incompetent way. The results of disclosure might well be embarrassing but that is surely no reason to refuse the request.

When is a community incentive not a community incentive?

www.politics.co.uk reported today that “The draft community incentives paper currently being prepared by the Department for Energy and Climate Change could hand the benefits of shale gas to county councils”.

This is hardly a surprise as this is the model which was suggested at the recent IoD meeting in Preston. It simplifies the process for the fracking companies as benefit trading could take place at a high level and cash strapped County Councils, struggling to balance budgets, are more likely to acquiesce than are the individual communities affected by fracking who are watching their own areas being industrialised and losing value.

This opens up the scenario that “community benefits” could end up being diverted to areas of Lancashire which are not suffering from fracking. This is plainly nonsense.

The whole idea of trying to bribe communities to accept the unacceptable looked badly flawed from the start, but its implementation looks as though it is going compound the foolishness by paying out taxpayers money whilst convincing nobody.

Frack Free Lancashire

Fracking In the UK

Fracking The UK

If you want to learn about fracking this book comes highly recommended!

"Untrustworthy, unbalanced and potentially brain washing." - Amazon Review - Yes the industry hates this book that much :-)