AN OXFORDSHIRE council has refused to name a councillor who was told to apologise following an argument – even though resolving the dispute cost more than £4,000.

Vale of White Horse District Council received a complaint from a taxi driver who was driving the councillor back home following a night out in 2015.

The councillor and the driver argued whether the latter had gone through a red light.

The taxi driver complained that during that dispute, the councillor said he was ‘in a position of authority within the council and in a position to determine that his driver’s licence was no longer valid’.

The driver said by doing so he had moved from acting a member of the public and into an official capacity.

Following interviews, investigators who were paid £4,338 for their work said the councillor should offer to apologise ‘for the distress his actions caused’.

An apology was then issued.

The councillor’s name is not included in a report, which was published ahead of a meeting of Vale and South Oxfordshire District Councils’ joint audit and governance committee on March 26.

On reading the report last month, the Oxford Mail submitted a Freedom of Information request to Vale council to obtain the name of the councillor and the name of the taxi company involved.

It also asked for details of when and where the incident took place and all of the documents the council holds which relate to the complaint.

But Vale has rejected the request on the grounds that no hearing was undertaken in public.

According to a Freedom of Information expert, the council’s actions are ‘extraordinary’ and reasons for withholding the information are ‘just rubbish’.

Extraordinarily, the authority said releasing the information would ‘undermine the confidence of potential complainants in bringing potential breaches of the code of conduct to the council’s attention’.

The authority also claimed naming the councillor involved would breach data protection rules.

It also said any details would ‘prejudice’ the way the council deals with its councillors’ code of conduct and determining whether councillors have broken the law or whether they have behaved improperly.

A Vale officer, who was not named in the council's response to the Oxford Mail, wrote ‘in all the circumstances’ the public interest preventing the information being made public outweighed the public interest in disclosing it.

The councils’ communications and legal services teams said they were behind the response to the FOI request.

The Oxford Mail has asked for the council to conduct an internal review – in effect, asking it to reconsider its decision. That should be completed by May 22.

If the information is withheld again, a further appeal can be sent to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which was set up to uphold information rights.