Town Council account info not given to NBRA as requested via Cllr P Smith

Roedd y cais yn llwyddiannus.

Dear Billingham Town Council Acting Freedom of Information Officer:

Freedom of Information request for Financial information about the Town Council Cafe in John Whitehead park.

NOTE: We wish to receive the information requested below in an electronic form which is capable of re-use, in accordance with item 102 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 – “Release and publication of datasets held by public authorities” - preferably in the form of one or more Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012...

Please provide the following information in respect of your cafe in John Whitehead Park Billingham for the financial year 2015-16

1. A detailed profit loss account statement with a final profit or loss figure for 2015-16 financial year.

2. The following details for financial year 2015-16:
· Total sales income for the cafe
· Details of all monies received from non food/drink sales - to include date, sum received and brief description of the nature of the income
· Details of all cafe monies paid into and taken out from the Town Council's petty cash account - to include date, sum received and brief description of the nature of the income.
· All food stock purchase costs made by cash (withdrawn by debit card) to include date, amount and name of the supplier.
· All food stock purchase costs made by cheque/ direct debit to include date, amount and name of the supplier.
· All staffing costs of people employed to work in the cafe to include total salaries, employer National Insurance contributions, Employer Pension fund contributions and liability insurance.
· All other operating costs (insurance, maintenance costs, ICT, gas bills, electricity bills) itemised.
3. With regards to the 'Bank Reconciliations for cafe accounts from April 2015 - March 2016' document given to NBRA by Cllr Paul Smith, please provide answers to the following questions:
· Are all the income amounts quoted totally from cafe sales (Or have monies received from hub activities been added)?
· For customer payments made by cheque please clarify if food purchases by customers have been paid for by cheque and indicate what other item types have been paid for by cheque.
· What are the monthly expenditure amounts for (We assume purchase of food stock is included, but what else)?
· Since the document suggests a gross profit for the cafe of £2463-55, what are the totals for all the other running costs of the cafe?

Yours faithfully,
Kevin Bowler
Chair of North Billingham Residents Association

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The town council sent a message to the requestors personal E mail address and did not follow the instruction torespond via the link to this website.

Dear Billingham Town Council,
Please send all correspondence regarding this FOI request via the link to the "What do they know" website as instructed, not to my personal E mail address.

Yours faithfully,
Kevin Bowler

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The town council sent this message to the requestor's personal E mail account, and did not use the link as instructed to this website for correspondence concerning this FOI:

Dear Mr Bowler

I am acknowledging your Freedom Of Information request sent to our general office email address on 20 September 2016.

Your request was discussed at our Town Council meeting on 27 September 2016. Council have asked that I invite you as Chair of the Billingham North Residents Association, to meet with myself and our Chairman, Cllr Colin Pollard to discuss this matter with you due to the complexity of your request.

If you could indicate when you would be available to meet with us and I will check our diaries accordingly.

Kind regards,

Dianne

Dianne Rickaby
Executive Officer/ Responsible Finance Officer
to Billingham Town Council
01642 551171

Dear Mrs Rickaby,

In respect to the invitation to meet with you and the BTC Chairman to discuss the complexity of my FOI request dated 20th September 2016:
I cannot see of what benefit to my self a meeting would be so therefore I decline your invitation and ask you to provide the requested information as per the FOI request dated 20th September 2016.

Regards,
Kevin Bowler.
Chair: North Billingham Residents Association.

Dear Mrs Rickaby (acting FOI Officer),
I have not received a response to my FOI request to indicate when or if you are prepared to provide the information specified within the 20 working days response time stipulated.
I would remind you yet again, please send any correspondence regarding this FOI to the "Whatdotheyknow.com" E mail address specified, and not to my personal E mail address - which you have now done twice.
It is worth pointing out that is not normal practice to call on the originator of an FOI request to attend a meeting on the premises of the organisation holding the data to discuss the nature of FOI prior to answering the request. Nor is it normal practice to stipulate that such a meeting should be at a time and date deemed convenient for the presence of a Town Council Chairman. If you require any clarification in relation to the information requested, please could you post details to the specified "Whatdotheyknow.com" E mail address which I will be happy to respond to.

Thank you

Yours faithfully,

Kevin Bowler

Vicky Lloyd, Billingham Town Council

Please note that I will be away from the office on Friday 14th October
2016 to Tuesday 18th October 2016 inclusive.  I shall return to work on
Wednesday 19th October 2016 and will respond to emails on my return.
For urgent queries please contact our office on (01642) 551171 or email
Tracy Roberts at [1][email address]  - many thanks.
 

--
Kind regards
Vicky on behalf of Dianne Rickaby
Vicky Lloyd
Office Co-ordinator
Billingham Town Council
Tel: 01642 551171
Email: vicky[2]@billinghamtowncouncil.co.uk
We have moved!.  Billingham Town Council is now located in Billingham
Library & Customer Service Centre, Billingham Town Centre, Billingham,
Cleveland, TS23 2LN.
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Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

Message from Vicky Lloyd, Billingham Town Council, appears to be an automated "Out of Office" E Mail generated by the Town Council's main enquiry e mail address and does not amount to an intended actual response to this FOI.

Dear Billingham Town Council, with regard to my FOI, can I remind you that over twenty working days have passed since it was presented to you. and I have not received the information requested, or an indication of when or if you are prepared to provide the information. I hope you will seek to rectify this situation very soon.

Yours faithfully,

Kevin Bowler

Dear Billingham Town Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.
I am writing to request an internal review of Billingham Town Council's handling of my FOI request 'Town Council account info not given to NBRA as requested via Cllr P Smith'.
The letter I received from the Town Clerk, Mrs Rickaby, in response to my Freedom of Information request about the Billingham Town Council café is not acceptable. There are numerous non conformances in it which do not comply with your obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and associated legislation.

I request a review of the way this FOI has been dealt with, and for action to be taken in resolving the non-conformances stated below. Please respond to this request for a review within 20 working days of the date it was sent to the Town Council.

PLEASE NOTE: I will consider submitting an official complaint to the office of the Information Commissioner and call on them to act accordingly if the Town Council do not respond to this request for a review before the 20 working days stipulated above, or if they inform me that they will refuse to hold the review.

Yours faithfully
Kevin Bowler
Chair, North Billingham Residents Association

Non conformances of the Billingham Town Council in response to FOI request.
Overall
The information supplied was deliberately not provided as stipulated in an electronic format capable of re-use, in accordance with item 102 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 - no justification was given for providing the information on printed paper.

Non conformances specific to the questions in the FOI

A detailed profit & loss account statement was not provided, nor was enough of the Cafe nformation required to produce one given. Reference was only made to a paper copy of a “Year End Summary information of income & expenditure” - this was not a profit and loss account.

Cafe food stock purchase costs made by debit card to include date, amount and name of the supplier were not provided.

Cafe food stock purchase costs made by cheque/direct debit to include date, amount and name of the supplier were not provided. Reference was made to schedules of accounts on the Council website
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0...
but these are incomplete and are not posted in an electronic format capable of re-use.

The response did not provide overall staffing costs of people employed to work in the cafe. I requested total salaries, employer National Insurance contributions, Employer Pension fund contributions and liability insurance. The Town Council incorrectly claim that an exemption through the Data Protection act 1998 - but the information requested was not personal data identifiable to any individual.

Itemised café operating costs - insurance, maintenance costs, ICT, gas bills, electricity bills were not provided. Reference was again made to schedules of accounts on the Council website but these show no insurance, gas or electricity bills and as stated before incomplete and are not posted in in an electronic format capable of re-use.

Details of what was spent on purchases of non food items on the overall monthly expenditure amounts were not provided. Reference was made to schedules of accounts on the Council website but these are incomplete and are not posted in an electronic format capable of re-use.

Totals for all non food related running costs of the café were not provided. Reference was made to schedules of accounts on the Council website but these are incomplete and are not posted in an electronic format capable of re-use.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence apart from that from the Town Council is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

Yours faithfully,
Kevin Bowler

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

Billingham Town Council responded to this FOI by sending a printed letter more than 20 working days after the FOI was submitted to North Billingham Residents Association. They disregarded the instruction to provide the information in a reusable electronic format and provided only some of the information requested.

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The Town Council sent a covering letter with the words as shown below in the same envelope as their response to this FOI. The covering letter was delivered as a hard copy print out by first class post.
27th October 2016
Mr K Bowler
Chairman of North Billingham Residents Association

Dear Mr Bowler
Re: Freedom of Information Request
In respect to your Freedom of Information request received via email dated 20th September 2016 for financial information about Billingham Town Council's cafe in John Whitehead Park. We should like to confirm the following responses as agreed and approved by Members at the Town Council meeting held on 25th October 2016.
Please note that Council have stated that this is the final response on this matter. Yours sincerely

Dianne Rickaby
Executive Officer & Responsible Finance Officer to behalf of Billingham Town Council

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The Town Council information given in response to this FOI was sent by first class post in paper hard copy. It is incomplete. The relevant content in the printed Town Council response is shown below. The Town Council have quoted the FOI questions followed by their response information in brackets.
________________________________________________
Please provide the following information in respect of your cafe in John Whitehead Park Billingham for the financial year 2015-16
1. A detailed profit loss account statement with a final profit or loss figure for 2015-16 financial year.
(Year End Summary information of income & expenditure on there)
2. The following details for financial year 2015-16: Total sales income for the café
(£11972.56)
Details of all monies received from non food/drink sales - to include date, sum received and brief description of the nature of the income
(£220 hub income)
Details of all cafe monies paid into and taken out from the Town Council's petty cash account - to include date, sum received and brief description of the nature of the income.
(No Petty Cash in place)
All food stock purchase costs made by cash (withdrawn by debit card) to include date, amount and name of the supplier.
(£100 cash withdrawn on schedule of accounts approved by Finance Policy & Resources Committee and approved at Town Council)
All food stock purchase costs made by cheque/ direct debit to include date, amount and name of the supplier.
(as per schedule of accounts approved at Town Council available to view on our website)
All staffing costs of people employed to work in the cafe to include total salaries, employer National Insurance contributions, Employer Pension fund contributions and liability insurance.
(Data protected).
All other operating costs (insurance, maintenance costs, ICT, gas bills, electricity bills) itemised.
(As per schedule of accounts approved at Town Council available to view on our website)
3. With regards to the 'Bank Reconciliations for cafe accounts from April 2015 -March 2016' document given to NBRA by ClIr Paul Smith, please provide answers to the following questions: Are all the income amounts quoted totally from cafe sales - Or have monies received from hub activities been added?
(As above)
For customer payments made by cheque please clarify if food purchases by customers have been paid for by cheque and indicate what other item types have been paid for by cheque
(All cash sales).
What are the monthly expenditure amounts for? We assume purchase of food stock is included, but what else?
As per schedule of accounts available to view on our website).
Since the document suggests a gross profit for the cafe of £2463-55, what are the totals for all the other running costs of the cafe?
(As per schedule of accounts available to view on our website)

Gadawodd Graeme Robertson anodiad ()

Who decided that the response to this FOI should be put to a full meeting of the council for ratification? The town council's FOI policy does not indicate that responses to FOI requests should be put to a full meeting of the council for ratification, nor does the FOI act. All information requested has to be provided if it exists, unless the cost of providing it is prohibitive, or a valid exemption can be justified. Councillors are not empowered to override the articles of the FOI act and decide what information they will or will make available.

1 Atodiad

 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

North Billingham Residents Association discusssed the status of this FOI and the message from Cllr Pollard at the meeting of 21/11/2016 . All present agreed that a complaint should be submitted to the Information Commissioner and felt that the contents of Cllr Pollard's message were unacceptable and unjustified.

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The following was sent to the Information Commissioner re this FOI:
NORTH BILLINGHAM RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION High Grange Community Centre, Casson Way,
Billingham
TS23 3TX

22nd November 2016
E Mail nbra@hotmail.co.uk

Concerns about FOI access and re-use of Information from Billingham Town Council

I am writing to you on behalf of North Billingham Residents Association (NBRA) to log a complaint over the way Billingham Town Council (BTC) see (i) - dealt with an FOI request submitted by NBRA on 20th September 2016

In summary, the key points of the complaint are:

• BTC only provided a small amount of the information requested.
• BTC did not provide information as requested in an electronic format capable of reuse
• BTC refused to provide the remaining unanswered information.
• BTC refused to hold an internal review.
• The assertion from BTC that any further correspondence regarding the FOI would be treated as “vexatious” was obstructive and unwarranted.

The FOI was submitted electronically, and it can be viewed in the public domain via the link
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...
The content viewable in the link above has also been attached. Some replies from BTC are shown as annotations because BTC disregarded the instruction to use a designated E mail that linked to the website and sent some replies to the FOI requester’s personal E mail address or by post. All replies to BTC can be viewed on the website above.

A scanned copy of the BTC information eventually provided, along with their accompanying letter is also attached in addition to the same document which has been provided in an electronic format.

In addition to the main items of our complaint there are other concerns that we wish to draw to your attention – these are listed below:

• BTC did not indicate in any of their initial responses (given less than 20 working days after the FOI was submitted) if they were prepared to provide the requested information.
• The BTC Clerk asked the requester to attend their premises during office hours to discuss the scope of the FOI – stating that this had to be in the presence of, and at a time suitable for the Town Council Chairman.
• Repeated requests to send all correspondence about the FOI to the designated E mail address linking to the website shown above were disregarded.
• Incomplete information was received more than 20 working days after the FOI request was submitted.
• BTC refused to supply most of the information, wrongly claiming a Data Protection exemption as one reason.
• The Town Council Clerk waited until a full meeting of Councillors took place and wrongly sought approval from them to commence sending information in response to the FOI.
• However, BTC’s FOI policy does not state that responses to FOI requests will be ratified by a full meeting of the Council. See (ii)
• BTC did not comply with their FOI policy – they failed as stated in item 3.2 in it to:

“Maintain a comprehensive Publication Scheme that provides information which is
readily accessible without the need for a formal FOI request.”

“ …review complaints about the release or otherwise of information by referring
them to the “Executive Office” (Clerk) and remind requestors that they can appeal such decisions to the Information Commissioner”.

• The BTC councillors, except for Cllr Colin Leckonby (see (iv) took it upon themselves at the meeting held 26/10/2016 to simply accept without question, the Clerk’s terms of reference in deciding how much of the information requested was to be provided, and the format that it was provided in.
• The BTC councillors asserted that the incomplete information provided under the recommendations of the Clerk was to be the only information provided and that this was “final” and not subject to review.
• The BTC response to the FOI was not supplied in an electronic format capable of reuse as specifically requested in the FOI, but as a printed paper hard copy sent by post.
• The BTC response to the FOI referred the requester to some information on their website but the website information is incomplete and posted as scanned hard copy scanned prints, not in an electronic format capable of reuse as specifically requested in the FOI. See (iii)
• A request was made to BTC on 30th October 2016, asking them to conduct an internal review over the way the FOI was handled and agree what would be done to address concerns about incomplete data.
• Cllr Colin Pollard said that internal review was refused and reiterated that no further information would be made available.
• Cllr Pollard said that any attempt to pursue BTC for the missing information would be deemed by him as vexatious and not acted on.
• Cllr Colin Pollard also claimed that 18 hours had been spent by BTC dealing with this FOI and that a significant charge for the work could have been levied
• However, since the Council use Sage 50 essentials accounting software, it is likely that the all the information requested should have been capable of being generated in tens of minutes by a competent user of the software via it’s in built reporting tools.
• The small amount of incomplete information provided suggests that very little of the 18 hours was spent on activities specifically undertaken for providing data to answer the FOI request.

The outcome we seek from this complaint is for a notice to be issued directing BTC to provide the information that they have thus far refused to supply. We also feel that a number of their actions detailed in this complaint were in breach of their obligations under the FOI Act. Consequently we would ask that you highlight such actions in the notice and hope that they will note them, and endeavour to respond to any future FOI requests in a more satisfactory manner.

Yours faithfully

Kevin Bowler
Chair, North Billingham Residents Association.

(i) Contact information
Billingham Town Council,
Billingham Library & Customer Service Centre,
Billingham, TS23 2LN.
01642 551171
Email
info@billinghamtowncouncil.co.uk

Chairman
Colin Pollard
Telephone: 01642 531647
Email:
colin.pollard2@ntlworld.com

Clerk
Mrs. D Rickaby
Billingham Town Council,
Billingham Library & Customer Service Centre,
Billingham, TS23 2LN.
01642 551171
E Mail
dianne@billinghamtowncouncil.co.uk

(ii)
BTC Freedom of Information Policy is attached to this complaint and can be downloaded via https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0...

(iii)
“Schedule of accounts from website” See link below – working at time of writing.
http://www.billinghamtowncouncil.co.uk/i...

(iv) Cllr Colin Leckonby was not present at the meeting of 26/10/2016. He informed NBRA and also informed the BTC Chairman (Cllr Pollard) that he does not support the BTC stance taken on dealing with this FOI and questions the motives for not providing a prompt and complete response. Cllr Jim Scollen joined BTC in November 2016 and was not involved in any of the proceedings to date.

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

Please note, since the complaint was lodged there has been a further development.
Another person has submitted an FOI to Billingham Town Council.
Please see https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/s...
In this instance the Town Council have provided information about the salaries of Cafe staff. They refused to provide it for our FOI.

We asked for:
All staffing costs of people employed to work in the cafe to include total salaries, employer National Insurance contributions, Employer Pension fund contributions and liability insurance.

Response was "(Data protected). "

Mr Devlin asked
4) What are the total earning of all cafe/hub employees paid by BTC?
BTC answered
4. CAFÉ/HUB SALARIES

2013-4 £0 ,
2014-5 £ 21,344.26
2015-6 £ 22,418.58
2016-7 ( est) £26,884.00

How can the Town Council justify providing the same information to one applicant and refusing it to another?

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

Deborah Clark is confirmed as Case Officer for dealing with the complaint made by NBRA to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

Dianne Rickaby, Billingham Town Council

3 Atodiad

Dear Mr Bowler
As per  your original request for the information (below) and further
request via ICO, please find attached the information you require further
to the information that was sent to you in November 2016. I have spoken
 to ICO to ensure this meets their recommendations and this has  now been
approved.
I will also indicate on each of the points below in which document you
find the information.
The cash book that is attached is my working document. The information
given to members via the schedule of accounts each month is information
extracted from this working document.
Dianne
Please provide the following information in respect of your cafe in John
Whitehead Park Billingham for the financial year 2015-16

1.  A detailed profit loss account statement with a final profit or loss
figure for 2015-16 financial year. 
BTC answer - The accounting systems used for 2015/16 as per audit
regulations did not require the council to produce profit & loss accounts,
we maintained our previous system ( as advise by auditors) of Payments &
Receipts.
The Year End Summary of which we have sent you a copy of is what we also
produce to our auditor and this identifies what income we received in the
cafe and what payments that were made.
2.  The following details for financial year 2015-16:
    ·            Total sales income for the cafe
BTC - This information  is shown in the document attached named cash book-
working document.
           
    ·            Details of all monies received from non food/drink sales
- to include date, sum received and brief description of the nature of the
income
BTC - This information is shown in document named cash book - working
document.
    ·            Details of all cafe monies paid into and taken out from
the Town Council's petty cash account - to include date, sum received and
brief description of the nature of the income.
BTC - We do not hold a petty cash account.
    ·            All food stock purchase costs made by cash (withdrawn by
debit card) to include date, amount and name of the supplier.
BTC -  This information is detailed in the document attached named  Cafe
cash withdrawal 2015-16.
    ·            All food stock purchase costs made by cheque/ direct
debit to include date, amount and name of the supplier.
BTC - This information is show in the document names cash book under
payments. 
    ·            All staffing costs of people employed to work in the cafe
to include total salaries, employer National Insurance contributions,
Employer Pension fund contributions and liability insurance.
BTC - The total net pay/wages for cafe staff for 2015/16 was 16,168.97.
The on costs can be found in attached report named  Tax & NI contributions
- please note that none of the cafe staff were enrolled into the pension
scheme at this time.
    ·            All other operating costs (insurance, maintenance costs,
ICT, gas bills, electricity bills) itemised.
BTC - This information is shown in the document names cash book under
payments. 
    3.  With regards to the 'Bank Reconciliations for cafe accounts from
April 2015 - March 2016' document given to NBRA by Cllr Paul Smith, please
provide answers to the following questions:
    ·            Are all the income amounts quoted totally from cafe sales
(Or have monies received from hub activities been added)?
BTC - There is income from the hub recorded in the attached document named
cash book  identified as hub income.
    ·            For customer payments made by cheque please clarify if
food purchases by customers have been paid for by cheque and indicate what
other item types have been paid for by cheque.
BTC - all our customers pay by cash. We do not accept cheques or card
payment at this time.
    ·            What are the monthly expenditure amounts for (We assume
purchase of food stock is included, but what else)?
BTC - All expenditure for cafe shown in the attached document names cash
book.
    ·            Since the document suggests a gross profit for the cafe
of £2463-55, what are the totals for all the other running costs of the
cafe?
BTC - All other associated costs for cafe are on the named document "cash
book' with the exception of individual salaries at which we have provided
a total net figure above. 

Yours faithfully,
Kevin Bowler
Chair of North Billingham Residents Association
  
Kind regards,
Dianne
 
Dianne Rickaby
Executive Officer/ Responsible Finance Officer
to Billingham Town Council
01642 551171
07501460006
[1][IMG]
 
 
 
Disclaimer:  This e-mail may contain confidential and/or privileged
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and delete it from your system.  Any unauthorised use, disclosure or
copying is not permitted.  Please be aware that e-mail communication is
not guaranteed to be secure.  This e-mail has been checked for viruses but
no responsibility is accepted for any damage caused by transmission of
this e-mail.  Opinions expressed may be those of the author and do not
necessarily represent the view of Billingham Town Council. 

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Dear Dianne Rickaby,
In response to the recent information you have updated regarding the Cafe in John Whitehead Park, we require some further clarification as indicated below:

1. There are no utility charges shown for Gas, Electricity, Water rates or Business Rates/Council Tax.
Please could you provide these for the 2015-16 financial year or explain why you did not provide them.

2. With regard to the overall employment costs of cafe staff, please clarify what the quoted National Insurance contribution costs relate to.
Are these: The employee combined National Insurance contributions, employer combined National
Insurance contributions or both?

If you have omitted to provide combined employer National Insurance contributions, please provide them.
3. Your data shows that no National Insurance was paid for July 2015 or August 2015. Please clarify that the values with blank spaces are actually zero.
As above, if you omitted to provide combined employer National Insurance contributions, please
indicate if these were or were not paid to cover the months of July 2015 and August 2015.

4. Your data also shows that no Income tax was paid for July 2015 or August 2015. Please clarify if any cafe staff were or were not employed for July 2015 or August 2015, and that the values with blank spaces are actually zero.

Yours sincerely, Kevin Bowler
Chair North Billingham Residents Association

Dianne Rickaby, Billingham Town Council

Hello, I am currently out of the office please contact my Deputy Vicki
Lloyd on 01642 551171 or [1][email address]. Many thanks
Dianne

--
  
Kind regards,
Dianne
 
Dianne Rickaby
Executive Officer/ Responsible Finance Officer
to Billingham Town Council
01642 551171
07501460006
[2][IMG]
 
 
 
Disclaimer:  This e-mail may contain confidential and/or privileged
information.  If you have received it in error, please notify the sender
and delete it from your system.  Any unauthorised use, disclosure or
copying is not permitted.  Please be aware that e-mail communication is
not guaranteed to be secure.  This e-mail has been checked for viruses but
no responsibility is accepted for any damage caused by transmission of
this e-mail.  Opinions expressed may be those of the author and do not
necessarily represent the view of Billingham Town Council. 

References

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Dianne Rickaby, Billingham Town Council

1 Atodiad

  • Attachment

    TAX NI contributions for Cafe Staff 1st April 2015 31st March 2016 2.xlsx

    4K Download View as HTML

Morning Mr Bowler,
Apologies for delay in reply I have had a lot of catching up to do  on my
return to work. Please find below answers to your questions. I have also
attached an updated spreadsheet for National Insurance contributions for
cafe staff for 2015/16, this now includes employer's contributions where
applicable.
In response to the recent information you have updated regarding the Cafe
in John Whitehead Park, we require some further clarification as indicated
below:

1. There are no utility charges shown for Gas, Electricity, Water rates or
Business Rates/Council Tax.
Please could you provide these for the 2015-16 financial year or explain
why you did not provide them.
BTC reply - All of the utilities that BTC pays for the  cafe are shown on
the cash book provided to you, however I can confirm that we do not
currently pay for gas, electricity or water rates. We are not classed as a
business and therefore do not pay business rates and no council tax as
this is not indicated in our lease.

2. With regard to the overall employment costs of cafe staff, please
clarify what the quoted National Insurance contribution costs relate to.
Are these: The employee combined National Insurance contributions,
employer combined National
Insurance contributions or both?
BTC reply - I have attached a revised spreadsheet that shows both
employees and employers NI contributions.

If you have omitted to provide combined employer National Insurance
contributions, please provide them. 
BTC reply - attached
3. Your data shows that no National Insurance was paid for July 2015 or
August 2015. Please clarify that the values with blank spaces are actually
zero.
As above, if you omitted to provide combined employer National Insurance
contributions, please
indicate if these were or were not paid to cover the months of July 2015
and August 2015.
BTC reply - If there are zero amounts this means that staff did not go
over the threshold that requires deduction of National Insurance.

4. Your data also shows that no Income tax was paid for July 2015 or
August 2015.  Please clarify if any cafe staff were or were not employed
for July 2015 or August 2015, and that the values with blank spaces are
actually zero.
BTC reply - as above if there are zero amounts then staff did not reach
threshold to pay tax.
I do hope that this information now explains  the situation with regards
to cafe staff pay deductions. 
  
Kind regards,
Dianne
 
Dianne Rickaby
Executive Officer/ Responsible Finance Officer
to Billingham Town Council
01642 551171
07501460006
[1][IMG]
 
 
 
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dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

The following correspondence was received from the case officer for the Information Commissioner:
Case Reference number FS50656670

Dear Mr Bowler

I write further to previous correspondence on the above case and our telephone conversation this morning. In this case, the information held by the council which was originally refused was provided to you by email on 27 June 2017. Although the original refusal of your request may not initially have been in accordance with the requirements of the FOIA, the council has clearly reversed its decision since the intervention and guidance of the Information Commissioner and provided the requested information.

I informed you that the council confirmed that it does not pay for gas and electricity and therefore does not hold some of the information you requested. The council will confirm this to you along with whether it pays for water. It will also provide clarification as to the National Insurance contributions.

During our telephone conversation I informed you that in dealing with this case I have provided the council with guidance and advice with regards to its obligations under the FOIA and good practice in handling requests. The council has also been provided with links to the following guidance on the ICO website:

http://www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/...

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

I will also send the council the following guidance on vexatious requests:

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

The council has recognised that dealing with this case has had a positive effect in that it will review and update its Publication Scheme. I will also request that it reviews its Freedom of Information Policy.

I informed you that the Information Commissioner will not be able to investigate the application of section 12 (cost of compliance) or section 14 (vexatious requests) in this case as the council did not rely on those provisions of the FOIA at the time of the complaint. However, if the council were to rely on those sections of the FOIA in a future complaint to the Commissioner, we would assess whether those sections apply at that time.

In my initial enquiries on this case, I did point out to the council that it had previously provided some of the information in relation to staff costs in response to a previous request and therefore it would not appear to be appropriate to withhold such information in this case.

I can also inform you that a public authority is not obliged under the FOIA to conduct an internal review. It is good practice to do so but not a statutory requirement.

As mentioned in previous correspondence and in our telephone conversation, the Information Commissioner prefers to resolve complaints informally. The council has now provided the requested information it holds, albeit outside of the statutory timeframe for compliance. Under the circumstances, the Information Commissioner does not consider that any public interest would be served by the issuing of a formal decision notice in this case as her limited resources should be concentrated on cases where the release of information remains in dispute. I will, however, write to the council again reminding it of its obligations to respond to requests for information promptly and stressing the need to learn from the experience of requests. As I mentioned in our telephone conversation, I have given the council advice on dealing with requests to promote its compliance with the FOIA in future. I would also like to point out that the Information Commissioner does not need to serve a formal decision notice in order to take a complaint into consideration for any further action against a public authority. As you will see, even though the Information Commissioner does not intend to issue a formal decision notice in this case, your concerns have been taken seriously. I hope that you will agree that this is a satisfactory outcome to your complaint. I request that you now withdraw this complaint and understand that I will hear from you after 17 July 2017. Thank you for bringing this matter to the attention of the Information Commissioner.

Yours sincerely Deborah Clark Senior Case Officer

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

Following discussion at the July 2015 meeting of North Billingham Residents Association, it was agreed that the response below should be sent to the case officer for the Information Commissioner:
From: Kevin Bowler, Chair North Billingham Residents Association

Dear Mrs Clark, North Billingham Residents Association agreed at their July 2017 meeting that all of the information requested had eventually been provided thanks to your intervention.

However, the association were not satisfied with your unwillingness to address a specific element of the complaint: The edict from the Town Council that any subsequent communications regarding the FOIR would be deemed “vexatious”.

Accordingly, we would like to see a recognition from you that the Town Councils' action amounted to bad practice and flawed interpretation of Section 14 of the FOIA act, and was relevant to the scope of this complaint.

We disagree with your assertion that the council did not rely on the provisions of Section 14 of the FOIA at the time of the complaint. Councillor Pollard was clearly aware that Public bodies can justify not providing information in response to what they allege are vexatious requests. He used the provisions of Section 14 (even if he was not entirely familiar with the correct application of them) as a supposed justification to prevent supplying the missing information. He also persuaded the Town Council to disregard its FOI policy which made provision for internal reviews of FOI handling. These actions led us to lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner. Had we not done so, the missing information would NOT have been supplied to us.

We feel that it is ludicrous for a Town or Parish Council to be able to do what Billingham Town Council did, namely pre judge that any FOI correspondence will automatically be deemed vexatious - regardless of what is content might or might not be. Such prejudgement action should be recognised and identified as a misinterpretation or misuse of Section 14 of the FOI Act.

There are many examples of an ICO case officer acting over disputed claims by a public body of an alleged vexatious FOI request with reference to section 14 of the FOI Act. For example See https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...
We feel that the case above has similarities to ours in that the public body alleged or implied that FOI correspondence was vexatious and used that “view” to supposedly justify prevention of release of some of the information requested.
Yours sincerely
Kevin Bowler, Chair North Billingham Residents Association

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

Sent 24/07/2017
Dear Mrs Clarke, thanks for your reply to my E Mail of 19 July 2017. We understand your reasoning for stating that the Council did not rely on the application of section 14(1) of the FOIA for their initial response to our FOIR.
However, we are still concerned about the statement by Cllr Pollard “We shall treat any further such requests on this subject as vexacious [sic].”
Our view is that "this subject" meant our FOIR request - and that it is not clear to us that you realise this. We feel it was made with the deliberate intention to curtail giving any further responses from the Town Council about the FOIR, including providing outstanding information that was awaited. We can only speculate if it reflected his and the Clerk's flawed understanding of the FOIA over judgement of what is vexatious in relation to how a public body responds to FOIR's (and any follow up communications by the requester). Or if it was given to "fob us off" in the hope we would believe that BTC knew what they were talking about of what amounts to vexatious correspondence.
It is worrying that his statement was accepted and endorsed by the remainder of the councillors. They appeared to be unconcerned or unaware that it suggests either of the scenarios postulated above.

In the interests of bringing the case to a satisfactory conclusion, please can you provide a copy of the letter you indicate that you will be writing to BTC.

We will be happy to have the case confirmed as closed if your letter spells out to them how they should properly come to a conclusion about what constitutes a vexatious FOIR request - and makes it clear that follow up correspondence to a partly answered FOIR cannot automatically be prejudged as "vexatious" or used as a reason for partial or non compliance with the FOI 2000 Act.

Yours faithfully
Kevin Bowler Chair, North Billingham Residents Association

Gadawodd Kevin Bowler anodiad ()

Copy of Letter sent by the ICO Case Officer to Mrs D Rickaby of Billingham Town Council:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
By email only to: dianne@billinghamtowncouncil.co.uk; info@billinghamtowncouncil.co.uk

8 August 2017

Case reference number FS50656670

Dear Mrs Rickaby

Further to previous correspondence on the above case I understand that the information held by the council which was originally refused was provided to Mr Bowler on 27 June 2017 and that you provided clarification regarding national insurance contributions, gas, electricity, water rates, business rates and council tax on 18 July 2017.

Although the original refusal of the request in this case may not initially have been in accordance with the requirements of the FOIA, the council has clearly reversed its decision since the intervention and guidance of the Information Commissioner and provided the requested information. The council has recognised that dealing with this case has had a positive effect in that it will review and update its Publication Scheme.

It would also be beneficial for the council to review its Freedom of Information Policy. Whilst the Commissioner acknowledges that a public authority is not obliged under the FOIA to conduct an internal review, it is good practice to do so. Mr Bowler requested an internal review in this case but the council did not carry out a review which appears to be in contravention of its policy.

Although the council did not rely on the provision for vexatious requests at section 14(1) of the FOIA in this case, I am aware that on 17 November 2016, it said the following:

“We shall treat any further such requests on this subject as vexacious [sic]”

It is not appropriate for the council to class future requests as vexatious without considering the specific request individually. Nor is it appropriate to prejudge follow up correspondence to a partially answered request as vexatious. The council should ensure that it takes into consideration the Commissioner’s guidance on dealing with vexatious requests (https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio... ) particularly paragraph 12:

“It is important to remember that section 14(1) can only be applied to the request itself, and not the individual who submits it. An authority cannot, therefore, refuse a request on the grounds that the requester himself is vexatious. Similarly, an authority cannot simply refuse a new request solely on the basis that it has classified previous requests from the same individual as vexatious.”

The aforementioned guidance provides details of how to assess whether a request is vexatious which, to summarise, involves consideration of whether the request is likely to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress in relation to the serious purpose and value of the request.

Given that the Information Commissioner prefers to resolve complaints informally and the council has now provided the requested information it holds, albeit outside of the statutory timeframe for compliance, and that the Information Commissioner does not consider that any public interest would be served by the issuing of a formal decision notice in this case as her limited resources should be concentrated on cases where the release of information remains in dispute, Mr Bowler has agreed to withdraw his complaint.

Therefore the Commissioner does not propose to serve a decision notice in this case. She does, however, take this opportunity to remind you of the need to respond to requests under the FOIA “promptly” and to stress the importance of learning from the experience of dealing with requests so as to minimise delays in future cases. Certainly if a pattern of delay were to emerge from separate complaints her approach would be likely to be a more formal one.

I would like to thank you for your cooperation in this case.

Yours sincerely
Deborah Clark
Senior Case Officer

01625 545624