car parking charges increases - Oxfordshire county council

Richard Parnham made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Oxford City Council

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Gwrthodwyd y cais gan Oxford City Council.

Dear Oxford City Council,

Oxfordshire County Council is planning significant increases to on-street car parking charges around Walton Street, Great Clarendon Street, and other "zone two" locations in Oxford, as part of its latest budget settlement for the new financial year. I would like to understand whether any Oxford City Councillors made any representations to their county council counterparts about these proposals - and what was said if they did.

Please therefore provide me with any correspondence between Oxford city councillors and Oxfordshire County Council (both councillors and officials) in relation to Oxfordshire County Council's planned car parking charges increases in the above-mentioned areas. The timeframe for my enquiry is 1 January 2022 to today's date. I would not expect councillor-to-councillor correspondence to be redacted, but would be content to see the names (if not the job titles) of council officials were redacted.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Parnham

freedomofinformation, Oxford City Council

Dear Mr Parnham,

Thank you for your email below. We received your request on 20th January 2022, and you will be sent a response within 20 working days (of receipt) in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000/ Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), subject to the information not being exempt or containing reference to a third party.

Yours sincerely,

Joyce Fagan
Information Governance Requests Officer

Joyce Fagan | Information Governance Requests Officer | Oxford City Council | Law and Governance | St. Aldate's Chambers | Oxford | OX1 1DS |

Stop the virus from spreading. Keep Oxford safe.
Follow the guidance: Clean hands. Wear a face mask. Keep your distance. Get tested if you have symptoms
================================================================================================================================================================

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

freedomofinformation, Oxford City Council

Dear Mr Parnham,

Further to the email below, I can respond to your Freedom of Information Act 2000 request received on 20th January 2022, as follows:-

We are engaging Section 36 (2 ) exemption which applies where releasing the information would cause "prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs". where disclosure of the information sought "would or would inhibit the free and frank provision of advice or ... exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation" or would "otherwise prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs".

Section 36 provides an exemption if disclosure would or would be likely to:
(a) prejudice collective responsibility or the equivalent in the United Kingdom
(b) inhibit the free and frank provision of advice or exchange of views; or
(c) otherwise prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.

If you disagree with any part of the response to your request, you are entitled to ask the Council for an internal review of the decision(s) made. You may do this by writing to the Monitoring Officer, by either email - [email address] - or by post to Monitoring Officer, Oxford City Council, St Aldate's Chambers, St Aldate's, Oxford, OX1 1DS. After the result of the internal review, if you remain dissatisfied, you may ask the Information Commissioner to intervene on your behalf. You may do this by writing to the Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely,

Joyce Fagan
Information Governance Requests Officer

Joyce Fagan | Information Governance Requests Officer | Oxford City Council | Law and Governance | St. Aldate's Chambers | Oxford | OX1 1DS |

Stop the virus from spreading. Keep Oxford safe.
Follow the guidance: Clean hands. Wear a face mask. Keep your distance. Get tested if you have symptoms.

======================================================================================================================================================================

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Oxford City Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Oxford City Council's handling of my FOI request 'car parking charges increases - Oxfordshire county council'.

The policy I wish to see the discussions about has now been approved by Oxfordshire County Council. As such, having reviewed the ICO guidelines on this point, I am struggling to understand what provisions of S36 (2) the council can rely on as legitimate grounds for refusal - given the presumption in favour of disclosure.

Collective responsibility grounds are not relevant, in relation to two local authorities (not national government) where one party is a coalition; I am specifically asking from information from councillors and officials who appear to routinely override the views of members of the public when making transport decisions (i.e. LTNs, CPZs), and therefore show little sign of any inhibition in relation to the way they conduct themselves regarding transport policy; the "chilling effect" argument is no longer relevant because the OCC decision has now been made, and the matter is no longer "live" as a point of debate; the onus is on the council to demonstrate that disclosure would "otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs". On the contrary, I would argue that it was OCC's act of "springing" a major shift in car parking charging policy on the city council, without warning, proper paperwork or debate, that has the potential to adversely impact the "effective conduct of public affairs" - not the disclosure of emails that exposes the extent of this "springing of policy change". The safe space argument is also not relevant, because the issue is now decided, and therefore no longer live as a matter for policy debate.

I would further note that I have previously received numerous FOI responses from Oxford City Council that have revealed councillor correspondence on live transport issues, including between city and county cabinet members. These include 9288 and 9308 (both between Yvonne Constance and Tom Hayes). Precedence therefore dictates that disclosure should occur now, because the city council has previously done so, and in relation to matters that were live, involved senior councillors, and involved even more significant transport measure than this one.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

Yours faithfully,

Richard Parnham

freedomofinformation, Oxford City Council

Dear Mr Parnham,

Thank you for your email below. This has been forwarded to the relevant Manager.

Yours sincerely,

Joyce Fagan
Information Governance Requests Officer

Joyce Fagan | Information Governance Requests Officer | Oxford City Council | Law and Governance | St. Aldate's Chambers | Oxford | OX1 1DS |  

Stop the virus from spreading. Keep Oxford safe.
Follow the guidance: Clean hands. Wear a face mask. Keep your distance. Get tested if you have symptoms.

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dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

freedomofinformation, Oxford City Council

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr Parnham,

 

I have been asked by Susan Sale to look at your Internal review request,
which you submitted on 26^th February 2022.

 

I have considered this request for you thoroughly, and I have noted the
information that I have found below.

 

In your original request you requested:

 

Oxfordshire County Council is planning significant increases to on-street
car parking charges around Walton Street, Great Clarendon Street, and
other "zone two" locations in Oxford, as part of its latest budget
settlement for the new financial year. I would like to understand whether
any Oxford City Councillors made any representations to their county
council counterparts about these proposals - and what was said if they
did.

 

Please therefore provide me with any correspondence between Oxford city
councillors and Oxfordshire County Council (both councillors and
officials) in relation to Oxfordshire County Council's planned car parking
charges increases in the above-mentioned areas. The timeframe for my
enquiry is 1 January 2022 to today's date. I would not expect
councillor-to-councillor correspondence to be redacted, but would be
content to see the names (if not the job titles) of council officials were
redacted.

 

In the original response, this information was withheld with the reason
stated being an S36 exemption. However this exemption is not an outright
exemption, it is subject to a public interest test which was not performed
at this time, which should have been applied with the results of the test
being shared with you.

 

 

I have re-examined the Freedom of interest request, and I believe
independantly that it is subject to a S36 exemption – included in the
information below are details of the public interest test performed which
should answer many of your other queries regarding this matter.

 

The Council has withheld any existing information, as I consider that
these are exempt under Section 36 and Section 40 (2) of the FOIA.

 

Under s.1 (1) (a) of the FOIA I can confirm that the Council does hold
some information, however I consider that these are exempt from disclosure
under Section 36 of FOIA, as disclosure of these could Prejudice the
effective conduct of public affairs, being the ability of the Council to
offer frank and confidential advice which may or may not affect outcomes
of policy decisions.

Section 36 of the Act sets out an exemption from the right to know if the
disclosure of information, in the reasonable opinion of a qualified
person, would prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs through:

• Prejudice or likely prejudice to the maintenance of the convention of
collective responsibility of Ministers of the Crown, the work of the
Executive Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly or the work of the
executive committee of the National Assembly for Wales

• Inhibition or likely inhibition of the free and frank provision of
advice or exchange of views,

• Any other prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs.

 

For information (other than ‘statistical information’) to be exempt under
section 36, it must in the ‘reasonable opinion of a qualified person’ be
capable of either prejudicing or inhibiting the matters listed above.

 

The Information Commissioner’s guidance states

PROVISION OF ADVICE OR THE FREE AND FRANK EXCHANGE OF

VIEWS FOR THE PURPOSES OF DELIBERATION

Section 36 (2) (b) (i) and (ii) allow for the exemption of information if
its

disclosure would, or would be likely to inhibit the ability of public
authority staff

and others, when deliberating or providing advice, to express themselves

openly, honestly and completely, or to explore extreme options. The

exemption allows for information to be withheld if its disclosure would
inhibit

the imparting or commissioning of advice, or the offering or requesting of

opinions or considerations, subject to the public interest test.

 

‘Inhibit’

is not defined in the Act. The Information Commissioner’s view is that

in the context of s36 it means to restrain, decrease or suppress the
freedom

with which opinions or options are expressed.

 

In this context

‘advice’ may refer, for example, to recommendations made by

more junior staff to more senior staff, professional advice tendered by

professionally qualified government employees, advice from external
sources,

or advice supplied to external sources. There may be elements of advice

from, for example, legal officers that would not fall within the exemption
at s42

relating to legal professional privilege, such as presentational guidance
from

lawyers.

 

‘Deliberation’

tends to refer to the evaluation of the competing arguments or

considerations that may have an influence on a public authority’s course
of

action. It will include expressions of opinion and recommendations but
will not

include purely factual material or background information. The information

must reveal the ‘thinking process’ or reflection that has gone into a
decision.

Section 36(2)(b) acknowledges that the disclosure of information which

reveals internal thinking processes may be detrimental to the ultimate
quality

of either policy-making (for non-section 35 bodies) or to other
decision-making

within a public authority. Some disclosures may lead to less candid and
robust

discussions, hard choices being avoided and ultimately the quality of

government being undermined.

 

Public Interest test

 

In my capacity as the Council’s qualified person in considering the
application of this exemption, I have applied the public interest test
under section 2(2)(b) FOIA i.e. notwithstanding this exemption, is there a
greater public interest in providing the information or in maintaining the
exemption?  This test requires me to consider whether the public interest
in disclosure outweighs the importance of the principle of confidentiality
and whether disclosing the Council would prejudice the effective conduct
of public affairs.

 

In applying the public interest test I have considered the Guidance issued
by the Information Commissioner. In this instance, it is my view that the
public interest is weighted in favour of maintaining the exemption because
of the importance of the principle of the effective conduct of public
affairs and because release of the information could significantly
prejudice the free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of
deliberation.

 

I do not consider that the arguments in favour of releasing the
information outweigh these factors and on that basis, the original
information has not been disclosed

 

For your information, this letter constitutes a Refusal Notice under
section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and an exemption under
section 36 the Act is being applied.

 

Kind regards

 

 

 

Sal Bartlett | Information Governance Administrator| Law & Governance |
SA1.2B | Oxford City Council | St Aldates Chambers | St Aldates | Oxford |
OX1 1DS |

 

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