Man who exposed report seeks help to fund legal case

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A CAMPAIGNING resident –who exposed a secret Sheffield Council report which has led to accusations 42,000 tenants were misled in a ballot to decide the future of estates – says he cannot fund any legal challenge to the result on his own.

Martin Brighton, of Lowedges, challenged a council decision to keep confidential a report on the business case for retaining management company Sheffield Homes. The report was then published by order of the Information Commissioner – and revealed concerns from Sheffield Homes that scrapping the organisation and dividing its functions between council departments could see services to tenants deteriorate or fail.

Council officers also admitted to a ‘risk’ to services.

Tenants voting to choose whether to return to council management, or to continue with an ALMO like Sheffield Homes, were told going back to council control could save money which could be used to improve services.

They say a £400,000 consultation process beforehand made no mention of any risk to services – and 88 per cent of tenants went on to vote for a return to council control.

Mr Brighton also believes Government guidelines requiring councils to detail the ‘pros and cons’ of different options were not followed – which could lead to the ballot result being challenged by judicial review.

But he said: “I am unable to fund legal action myself. But there is the possibility of a class action if there are enough people to join in, and assuming legal aid on the basis of public interest.”

Mr Brighton is also appealing to a tribunal to make public further sections of the council report, which were withheld because they contained financial information.

Sheffield Council insists the ballot complied with guidelines and tenants were not misled.