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Medway council keeps lid on dirty restaurants

Medway Council has continued to refuse to reveal which food businesses failed to meet hygiene standards.

dirty restaurant
dirty restaurant

The council rejected a request from the Medway Messenger under the Freedom of Information Act to name the 53 premises told to improve after more than 700 visits by inspectors.

It said the adverse commercial damage outweighed the public interest and said legal proceedings were being considered against some of the operations.

The Messenger put in the request after a report in January revealed that dozens of premises were below hygiene standards.

The environmental health team had forced two general stores to close down after it took the owners to court, nine businesses went into short-term voluntary closure and a further 42 improvement notices were given out.

But people in Medway are the only ones in Kent who do not know which local establishments have failing hygiene standards.

Last year, every other authority in the county published the results of their inspections online, under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. Medway is among the last few authorities in the country to adopt the national scheme this year.

It gives establishments a grade between zero to five, with the latter meaning its cleanliness is excellent. It came into force across the Towns last month and the results of all future inspections will be published online – even if improvement notices have been handed out. So far, 38 inspections have been published. Of these, 29 received the highest rating of five, while two received the second lowest mark of one.

Both Marlow Park Convenience Store, in Wells Road, Strood, and The Real China, in Leviathan Way, Chatham Maritime, were told "major improvement" was necessary. But despite now naming food premises, the council still refused to publish last year’s results.

A spokesman said it would not release the information because it would "cause adverse and disproportionate commercial damage, and outweighs the public interest".

It also refused on the grounds that disclosure would prejudice any criminal proceedings the council "could" conduct.

But the authority did release pictures showing the types of places they were protecting - it included a filthy kitchen and a picture of chocolate, that had been nibbled by mice.

The Messenger is likely to appeal against the Freedom of Information request refusal.

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