THE disciplinary action Herefordshire Council has taken against employees whose blunders cost taxpayers thousands are being kept secret to protect their future prospects, a freedom of information request has revealed.

The council spent £1.92m to refurbish Blueschool House in Hereford. It was more than double the cost of the original estimate of £950,000 approved by councillors.

At the time, the audit and governance committee condemned the failure of officers to follow processes, including failing to tender to more than one contractor.

The Hereford Times has asked the council, under freedom of information legislation, what actions were taken on council staff responsible for the overspend.

But information officers have refused to reveal any information they believe would reveal the identities of those at fault, citing privacy legislation.

They have declined to reveal how many members of staff were at fault, what their positions were and if and how they have been reprimanded.

All they can confirm is that action has been taken but will not explain further.

“It would be possible for other members of council staff to identify the individuals concerned if the actions taken were released it the public domain in response to an FOI request,” the decision notice reads.

“It would be unfair on an employee for an employer to disclose information that would allow the public to identify that action has been taken against them.

“As such disclosure would cause those involved a great deal of distress and detriment and would harm their future prospects.”

The council could only confirm that unknown actions were taken out on less than five employees.

“We consider there is a legitimate interest in the public knowing this information, however, we have concluded that disclosure of the exact number involved is not necessary to meet that test.

“We have concluded that the rights and interests of the data subjects outweigh the legitimate interests in disclosure.”

The project overspend was deemed so serious by councillors that it was included in a corporate peer review of the authority. A small team of officers and councillors from other authorities spent time last year reviewing the council’s workings.

Ex-county councillor Anthony Powers asked at the time why a review had not been commissioned specifically focusing on the failures of the management responsible.