A request for supporting documentation relating to the agreement with Surrey Fire & Rescue Service to provide the call handling and mobilising function for West Sussex

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service,

In relation to your arrangement to transfer call handling and mobilisation to Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, please provide the following information:

1. The text of any requirement in the section 16 agreement between West Sussex and Surrey that refers to staffing levels in Surrey’s control.

2. Copies of any documents (reports, emails, memos etc) relating to the West Sussex assessment of adequate staffing levels in the Surrey control room.

3. Details of the control room training and experience of West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service staff who carried out that assessment and signed off staffing levels on behalf of West Sussex.

4. Details of the standards, good practice guides, studies and research material used to inform the assessment process.

5. Copies of risk assessments relating to the operational impact in West Sussex when control room staffing is at, or falls below, the determined minimum level.

6. Copies of reports submitted, since 3 December 2019, that relate to any occurrences that resulted, or could have resulted, in a delay to the attendance at West Sussex incidents.

7. Details of action taken by West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service to address those occurrences.

8. Details of the performance standards set by West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service as part of this arrangement and of the evidence source that will be used to assess that performance.

9. Copies of the text in any agreements with partners, contractors and suppliers that refer to compliance with the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure’s guidance. This part of the request also covers any equipment or service commissioned by West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, or West Sussex County Council, that delivers or receives voice or data communication to/from the Surrey fire control.

10. Copies of the text in any agreements with partners, contractors and suppliers referring to the security of, and access to, sensitive data (personal, commercial, security) used in connection with call handling and mobilisation.

Yours faithfully,

A.C. Morris

Thank you for your email. We will endeavour to respond to all enquiries
within 5 working days. In case of emergency, please call 999.

Kind regards, West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service.

 

This email and any attachments are confidential and intended solely for
the persons addressed. If it has come to you in error please reply to
advise us but you should not read it, copy it, show it to anyone else nor
make any other use of its content. West Sussex County Council takes steps
to ensure emails and attachments are virus-free but you should carry out
your own checks before opening any attachment.

Thank you for your email.

 

This has been forwarded to the Management Information Department who will
respond to you directly.

 

Kind regards,

 

Elsie

 

Elsie Bennett | People Support Administrative Assistant

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service & West Sussex County Council

 

 

 

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westsussex@infreemation.co.uk, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

Dear A. C. Morris

Thank you for your request which has been assigned reference FOI/533

Request for supporting documentation for the transfer of the call handling
and mobilising functions to Surrey FRS.

If you have submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) or the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), we will aim to
respond within the statutory timescale of 20 working days, i.e. by or on
21/02/2020.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please reply
to this email leaving the subject line unchanged.

Yours sincerely,
West Sussex County Council

 

Did you make your request via our online form at
[1]https://foi.infreemation.co.uk/westsusse... If not, why not use it
in future for a simple and convenient way to make FOI requests.

References

Visible links
1. https://foi.infreemation.co.uk/westsusse...

westsussex@infreemation.co.uk, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

Dear A. C. Morris,

Our Ref: FOI/533

 

On 24/01/2020 you made the following request for information, which has
been dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.

 

 

We have now completed a search for the information which you requested and
confirm that this Authority holds some data relevant to your request.
 

The Response to your request is as follows:

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service consider the information requested to
be commercially sensitive and exempt under section 43(2) of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 as disclosure would be likely to prejudice the
commercial interests of either the public authority or third parties.

Due to the partnership between Surrey Fire and West Sussex Fire Service,
where Surrey Fire mobilising control are now handling all emergency calls
on behalf of West Sussex, there are also plans now underway to on board
East Sussex in 2021. The project has only recently commenced, with the
section 16 agreement yet to be drawn up. Due to these factors, Surrey Fire
consider any records and information relating to our agreement with West
Sussex to be commercially sensitive at this time.

West Sussex and Surrey Fire and Rescue has established performance targets
contained in the section 16 agreement. This data is not currently
available as we have not progressed into reporting cycle one yet.

The information supplied to you continues to be protected by the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You are free to use it for your
own purposes, including any non-commercial research you are doing and for
the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for example commercial
publication, would require the permission of the copyright holder. Most
documents supplied by us will be copyright of West Sussex County Council.

Information you receive which is not subject to WSCC continues to be
protected by the copyright of the person, or organisation, from which the
information originated. You must ensure that you gain their permission
before reproducing any third party (non WSCC) information.

If you have any queries about any of this information please contact me
 by responding to this email. Please do not amend the Subject line.

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you may
wish to ask for a review of our decision  by responding to this email.
Please do not amend the Subject line.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you may
apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally,
the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted our internal
review procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
 

[1]www.ico.org.uk; or

The Information Commissioner's Office,
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

 

Yours sincerely,

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

 

 

 

References

Visible links
1. http://www.ico.org.uk/

Dear West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service's handling of my FOI request 'A request for supporting documentation relating to the agreement with Surrey Fire & Rescue Service to provide the call handling and mobilising function for West Sussex'.

I do not accept that section 43(2) can be legitimately applied to this request.

The information requested is information about an arrangement between two public authorities, it is not commercial information. It will not prejudice the commercial interest of any third parties. As stated in the reply, the arrangement has already been implemented and is functioning, so there can be no question of even public authorities being in competition.

Reference to East Sussex is irrelevant, as the request only pertains to the current arrangement between Surrey and West Sussex County Councils in their capacities as fire and rescue authorities.

That the section 16 agreement has yet to be drawn up is concerning, but that reinforces the public interest justification to examine how diligent the fire & rescue authority has been with regard to the arrangement with Surrey.

With regard to item 8 of my request, the request was not for performance data but for details of the performance targets you confirm you have established, and for details of the evidence source that will be used to assess performance when you enter the reporting cycle.

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

Yours faithfully,

A.C. Morris

Thank you for your email. This has been forwarded to our Management
Information Team to respond to you directly.

 

Kind regards,

 

Elsie

 

Elsie Bennett | People Support Administrative Assistant

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service & West Sussex County Council

 

 

 

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A.C. Morris left an annotation ()

The Information Commissioner is investigating.

westsussex@infreemation.co.uk, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

4 Attachments

Dear Mr Morris

 

Re: FOI 533 - Internal Review – ICO Complaint IC-41039-F6Y2

 

I have been asked to carry out a review of the way in which your Freedom
of Information Request was dealt with.

 

You made a request dated 21^st January 2020 requesting information
relating to arrangements for the transfer of call handling and
mobilisation to Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).

A response to that request was provided on 21^st February which confirmed
the partnership between SFRS and West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service (WSFRS)
had only recently commenced and the Section 16 Agreement had not yet been
drawn up. The response also declined to disclose the information requested
and applied the commercial interest exemption under Section 42(2) Freedom
of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

On 25^th February you requested an internal review. Unfortunately, it
appears that this request was missed by the Council and you subsequently
contacted the ICO.  The ICO wrote to the Council on 25^th June, however,
for reasons that I have not been able to identify, this communication was
also missed.  I apologise for this oversight and that the Council did not
carry out the internal review as it should have done.

 

In order to address that shortfall, the Council has now undertaken the
internal review of your request. 

 

Some considerable time has passed since your original request was made.
The Council applied the commercial interest exemption, and the Section 16
Agreement with SFRS is now in place.  The Council has now reviewed its
position and no longer intends to apply the exemption to your request. 
Please find below a response to each of the matters from your original
request.

 

The Council no longer seeks to rely on the exemption in Section 43(2)
FOIA.

 

Response

 

You requested the following:

 1. The text of any requirement in the section 16 agreement between West
Sussex and Surrey that refers to staffing levels in Surrey’s control.

 

Please see below the relevant text extracted from the Section 16
Agreement.

 1. Copies of any documents (reports, emails, memos etc) relating to the
West Sussex assessment of adequate staffing levels in the Surrey
control room.

 

Please see above the relevant section of the Section 16 Agreement which
details staffing.

 

 1. Details of the control room training and experience of West Sussex
Fire & Rescue Service staff who carried out that assessment and signed
off staffing levels on behalf of West Sussex.

 

Please find attached the Job Description (Area Manager) Strategic Risk,
which details the management skills, qualifications and experience of the
individual holding this post and who was the lead officer on the
assessment.

 

 1. Details of the standards, good practice guides, studies and research
material used to inform the assessment process.

 

Please find attached Control Role Maps.  However, regard was also had to
the ongoing HMICFRS recommendations for improvements, Grenfell Tower 43
Recommendations, Cube Fire Observations, National Operational Guidance
(NOG), ongoing exercises, shared learning and NFCC (National Fire Chief
Council), ongoing position statements and recommendations, Waking Watch
guidance, Fire survival guidance.  This may not represent an exhaustive
list.

 

 1. Copies of risk assessments relating to the operational impact in West
Sussex when control room staffing is at, or falls below, the
determined minimum level.

 

This is detailed in the Covid Business Continuity Plans, which covers the
broad terms of resilience in providing a service including JFC. Which
includes the following quote:

 

 

 1. Copies of reports submitted, since 3 December 2019, that relate to any
occurrences that resulted, or could have resulted, in a delay to the
attendance at West Sussex incidents.

 

The Council declines this information as disclosure might pose a real and
significant risk of endangerment if disclosed ie. would, or would be
likely to endanger the physical or mental health and/or safety of any
individual or group. I have therefore applied the exemption under Section
38 FOIA.

 

In applying the above exemption, I have had regard to the public interest
test. It is accepted that there is always a public interest in favour of
disclosure as it supports openness, transparency and accountability of
public bodies. However, there are strong arguments in favour of
maintaining the exemption in respect of this part of your request. It is
critical to manage and maintain the resilience of the Service,
particularly in the current climate of operations whilst facing the
Covid-19 pandemic. It is essential that information placed in the public
domain cannot be used for mischief in order to compromise resilience.
Disclosure of the requested information increases the likelihood of
malicious or unwanted calls by identifying potential vulnerabilities,
which places increased demand on Services and increased risk to the public
as a whole, by compromising the ability of the Service to respond to blue
light incidents.

 

I am satisfied that the public interest in maintaining the exemption
outweighs the public interest in disclosing.

 1. Details of action taken by West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service to
address those occurrences.

 

Please refer to the response to no. 6 above.

 

 1. Details of the performance standards set by West Sussex Fire & Rescue
Service as part of this arrangement and of the evidence source that
will be used to assess that performance.

 

Please find attached Section E of the Section 16 Agreement.

 

 1. Copies of the text in any agreements with partners, contractors and
suppliers that refer to compliance with the Centre for the Protection
of National Infrastructure’s guidance. This part of the request also
covers any equipment or service commissioned by West Sussex Fire &
Rescue Service, or West Sussex County Council, that delivers or
receives voice or data communication to/from the Surrey fire control.

 

Please find attached a redacted version of the Collaboration and
Delegation Agreement. Please note that the redacted sections do not fall
within the description of the requested information.

 

 1. Copies of the text in any agreements with partners, contractors and
suppliers referring to the security of, and access to, sensitive data
(personal, commercial, security) used in connection with call handling
and mobilisation.

 

Please find attached a redacted version of the Collaboration and
Delegation Agreement. Please note that the redacted sections do not fall
within the description of the requested information.

 

 

I confirm that a copy of this response has been shared with The
Information Commissioner’s Office.

 

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply
directly to The Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the
ICO’s office cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted our own
complaints procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: 

The Information Commissioner's Office,

Wycliffe House,

Water Lane,

Wilmslow,

Cheshire

SK9 5AF. 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

West Sussex County Council

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsussex@infreemation.co.uk, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

This response has also been sent to [email address] by Legal
Services FOI

Dear Mr Morris

ICO Case reference IC-41039-F6Y2

I refer to your request for information dated 21st January 2020. 
Following your referral of how your request was dealt with to the ICO, and
contact made with the Council I have carried out a thorough review of how
your original request was handled, the internal review that was carried
out, and the information that was disclosed to you as part of your
request.

I am writing to advise you that the Council is revising its position in
relation to your request.  The Council is satisfied that due to the
nature, scope and sheer scale of your request, the Council is exempted
from supplying the information requested pursuant sections 14 and 12 of
the FOIA 2000.

Paragraphs 41 and 42 of the ICO guidance make it clear that public
authorities can aggregate two or more separate requests, and per the
decision Ian Fitzsimmons v ICO & Department for Culture, Media and Sport
(EA/2007/0124, 17 June 2008), multiple requests within a single item of
correspondence are separate requests for the purpose of section 12.  All
of the requests relate to the arrangement to transfer call handling and
mobilisation from West Sussex Fire and Res cue Service (WSFRS) to Surrey
Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS).  I am therefore satisfied that it is
appropriate to aggregate all 10 requests in the original request of 21^st
January 2020 in order to consider the application of sections 14 and 12. 

Section 14(1) of the FOIA is designed to protect public authorities by
allowing them to refuse any requests which have the potential to cause a
disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or
distress.   It is my view that the provisions of s.14 FOIA are engaged in
relation to your request.

In considering whether to apply this exemption I considered the decision
of the Upper Tribunal in the case of Information Commissioner vs Devon
County Council & Dransfield [2012] UKUT 440 (AAC), (28 January 2013) when
it defined the purpose of section 14 as follows;

‘Section 14…is concerned with the nature of the request and has the effect
of disapplying the citizen’s right under Section 1(1)…The purpose of
Section 14…must be to protect the resources (in the broadest sense of that
word) of the public authority from being squandered on disproportionate
use of FOIA…’ (paragraph 10).

As set out above, in order to consider your request it was appropriate to
aggregate all 10 questions set out in your original request, and note that
you request a wide range of information including "copies of any documents
(reports, emails, memos etc)...", "details of the standards, good practice
guides, studies and research material...", "copies of the text in any
agreements with partners, contractors and suppliers...".  On the face
of the request, it is entirely reasonable, however in considering it
further, the size and sheer scope of the request satisfies me that the
effort required to meet the request is so grossly oppressive in terms of
the strain on time and resources that the Council cannot reasonably be
expected to comply, no matter how legitimate your request.  I am
satisfied, therefore that the request is disproportionate and unjustified,
and to respond would cause an unjustifiable level of disruption to the day
to day delivery of services and allocation of resources of WSCC, and the
effort required to meet the request is so grossly oppressive in terms of
the strain on time and resources, that the Council cannot reasonably be
expected to comply. 

It is on this basis that the Council is exempted from disclosing the
requested information to you.

I went on to consider, if the exemption set out in section 14 does not
apply, and in light of some of the comments above, whether it would be
appropriate to apply the exemption set out in section 12.  In order
to consider the request I took steps to locate and consider the provisions
of the Section 16 agreement between West Sussex County Council (WSCC) and
Surrey County Council (SCC).  The agreement is 385 pages.  The request
also had to be considered with the contextual background of a
Collaboration Agreement between the same parties which is 100 pages.  The
digital file held by the Legal Services Team was opened in October 2018
and contains in excess of 500 documents, including emails, minutes of
meeting, reports and draft reports, documents and draft documents.  It is
not possible to do a digital search of the content of each document, so
each document has t be opened and read in order to identify whether it is
relevant to the request.  I timed how long it takes to open and read an 8
line email.  This took 1 minute.  Attached to that email was a draft
document.  If is accepted that it takes 1 minute to open and read a short
email, that is a minimum of 500 minutes.  This does not take account of
reading and considering any attachments to those emails.  The Section 16
agreement is 385 pages, and the Collaboration Agreement is 100 pages.  If
it is accepted that it will take 1 minute to read each page of those
agreements, the total time taken to open the emails and read the two
agreements is 985 minutes, or 16 hours and 25 minutes.  This estimate does
not take into consideration the opening and reading of any attachments to
identify if those attachments are relevant to the request, and only
relates to the time it would take to consider the documents held by the
legal team at WSCC.  In order to further consider the request, I
identified that a working group was set up that reported to a Strategic
Board that reported to Cabinet.  That working group carried out
consultations with the Fire and Rescue Senior Leadership Team, the Fire
Brigades Union, the Fire and Rescue Service Association and the Fire
Officers Association.  I am advised that there are also options appraisal
documents that were created prior to the file being opened in the legal
team, and am advised by a senior officer that the project lasted 2 and a
half years, and involved 120 staff across 2 authorities.  Given the amount
of time it would take to search the documents held just within the legal
team, I am satisfied that to carry out searches with WSFRS staff,
Democratic Services, Procurement Services and all of the consultees and
third parties (including SCC) would take more than 18 hours at a rate of
£25 per hour would exceed £600, and that this estimate is reasonable,
realistic and supported by cogent evidence. 

 In considering the request, I considered the provisions of Regulation
4(3) of the Fees Regulations and considered, in officer time, how long it
would take to determine whether the information is held, locating the
documents that may or will contain it, retrieving those documents and
extracting the relevant information, and in consideration of The Freedom
of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulation
2004 SI 2004 No 3244 (the Fees Regulations).

Finally, I note that the Council did attempt to provide some information,
and you have accepted that your request set out at bullet point number 8
has been answered.  I am satisfied therefore that the Council has complied
with its obligations under section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act as
reasonable steps were taken to provide advice and assistance.

I have copied the ICO into this response for the sake of transparency.

 

A.C. Morris left an annotation ()

Over ten months after this request was submitted, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, operated by West Sussex County Council, is still trying to withhold information. As well as ignoring the internal review request, it seems that they are working their way through the exemptions on the FOIA in the hope that eventually the Commissioner will accept one of them is valid. I am again referring the failure to provide the information to the Commissioner.