A LANDMARK court ruling will force senior staff at Bolton Council to reveal their outside business interests.

The Town Hall has spent thousands of pounds fighting the case, which will have huge consequences for councils across the country who are also seeking to protect their staff’s privacy. It was brought following a freedom of information request in 2010 from transparency campaigner John Greenwood, from Breightmet, which asked for the council to reveal the outside interests of all senior officers.

The council refused, but was overruled by the Information Commissioner. The council then appealed that decision.

This week, the council was told its appeal would be partly allowed, and that lower-paid staff’s privacy would be protected, but that outside interests of some of its highest-paid staff — those of chief officer level and above — should be made available “in the public interest”.

The case was the first of its kind and could be used as a precedent for judges hearing similar appeals from other councils.

Chief officers include directors, assistant directors, chief planning officers, specialist lead posts and the chief executive.

There are about 20 staff at this level and they are paid between £60,000 and £170,000 annually.

In a written ruling, Judge Fiona Henderson, of the General Regulatory Chamber for Information Rights, said: “Senior officers would have an expectation they would need to carry out their tasks transparently and be accountable for the decisions they took. There is a strong need for clarity on the personal interest of senior officers for this reason.”

A separate Freedom of Information request revealed the council had spent £13,374 on a top lawyer to fight the case on its behalf.

The council’s constitution states all employees on salary band eight and above — about 1,000 — must declare whether they have any personal interests or involvement which might conflict with their employment or the interests of the council.

However, the court ruled the council did not have to make this information public.

The council’s monitoring officer, Alan Eastwood, said any staff who failed to declare interests could face disciplinary proceedings.

The outside interests of councillors, such as whether they are a school governor or have a special interest in an issue, is published regularly, but until now, the council has sought to protect its highest-paid decision makers.

A council spokesman said: “We have to balance the public’s right to information with the individual’s right to privacy, we felt it appropriate to challenge the initial ruling.

“The figure reached £13,000 because the Information Commissioner insisted the hearing was oral, rather than paperbased.

“We are still considering the ruling itself and have yet to decide our final approach to releasing the data.”

The council has a month to reveal the information.