The purpose of the Freedom of Information Act 2015 is ‘….to enable persons who are resident in the island to obtain access to information held by public authorities…………’.

The Act was extended to include local authorities from the January 1, 2018.

I’ve not made any requests to local authorities before now, but I was asked recently to be the ‘mouthpiece’ of several people who were interested to know the current salary and salary scale of the clerk of Peel Town Commissioners (PTC).

I didn’t want to single out the clerk, Derek Sewell, though, and in the interests of fairness and impartiality, to draw a comparison between Derek’s salary and the salaries of other local authority clerks , I submitted FoI requests to PTC and the other main local authorities –

Douglas Council

Ramsey Commissioners

Port Erin Commissioners

Port St Mary Commissioners

Garff Commissioners


Ramsey Commissioners were first out of the starting blocks when their deputy clerk phoned and said that they were happy to provide me with the information I’d requested, but rather than follow the convoluted FoI system with all the work that that entails, they asked if we could arrange matters on a ‘business as usual’ basis. This was agreed and I received this information by e-mail a few days later—

‘The town clerk pay scale is 45+20% (£71,299) £ to 49+20% (£77,868). The current spine point is 47+20% which is £74,634.

‘The deputy town clerk scale is 38 (£49,791) to 31 (£54,075). The current spine point is 31 which is £54,075.’

But, then the shutters went up!!

In a 240-word response from the PTC they refused to provide me with the information which I’d requested and in a further attempt to keep Derek Sewell’s salary details secret, at ratepayers’ expense the PTC instructed an external third party to prepare a report on my request for a review of the PTC’s response. A hard copy of the Report comprising of some eight and a half pages was received by me in the post from the PTC on January 25, 2023, with a compliments slip, but without any covering letter.

The report concludes ‘we find that ………………………’ but doesn’t state who ‘we’ are.

Furthermore, nowhere in the report does it state that this is the Response by the PTC as required by the FoI Code of Practice. On its face, therefore the PTC hasn’t let me have a response to my review request.

I can see that a complaint will shortly be winging its way to the Information Commissioner about this.

In another twist in the tale Port Erin Commissioners also engaged a third party at ratepayers’ expense to provide a report on my subject access request linked to my FoI request. The report was, however, sent to me by the clerk of Malew Commissioners!!!

More to come on the refusals of the other local authorities to let me know the salaries of their clerks.

Local authority clerks appear to be a protected species.

Trevor Cowin

Poortown Road


This letter was first published in the Isle of Man Examiner of January 31.

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