Amounts paid to Common Purpose and similar organisations

Richard Jackson made this Freedom of Information request to Rother District Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Richard Jackson

Dear Sir or Madam,

In response to a previous Freedom of Information request (details of which can be found at http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/am...), it was stated that "the Council has not sent any employees or Members on any such course and therefore no payments have been made *in this respect*." (emphasis mine).

Can you please clarify, for the avoidance of all doubt, whether the Council has made *any* payments whatsoever to Common Purpose, or any organisation associated with it, and if so provide details thereof.

Yours faithfully,

Richard

David Edwards, Rother District Council

I am now out of the office - I hope to be back Monday 21 July.

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Lynda Crawford, Rother District Council

Dear Mr Jackson

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

I refer to your request received on 14 July 2008 about Common Purpose.

Under section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, a request for
information must comply with three requirements. It must:

(a) be in writing,
(b) state the name of the applicant and an address for correspondence, and
(c) describes the information requested.
After initial consideration, this request appears to comply with
requirements (a) and (c) but it does not comply with requirement (b)
because you do not provide an address for correspondence. We are entitled
to this even if the request is made by e-mail and you ask us for a reply
by e-mail, and we are able to comply.

Under section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 we are not obliged
to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious, and
where we have previously complied with a request for information which was
made by any person, we are not obliged to comply with a subsequent
identical or substantially similar request from that person unless a
reasonable interval has elapsed between compliance with the previous
request and the making of the current request. The Information
Commissioner has advised that a request may be regarded as vexatious if
it:

o clearly does not have any serious purpose or value;
o is designed to cause disruption or annoyance;
o has the effect of harassing the public authority; or
o can otherwise fairly be characterised as obsessive or manifestly
unreasonable.
Unless we knew your real name and real address it would be more difficult
for us to determine whether your request was vexatious or repeated. For
instance, unless you are a professional journalist or researcher, your
request would be less likely to have any serious purpose or value if you
do not live in this District.

At the bottom of your e-mail you say that any reply will be published on
the Internet. With reference to that, would you please note that the Act
does not require us to consent to such publication and therefore, when you
have supplied your address for correspondence, any response would be
personal to yourself and no consent to publish it, for instance on a web
site, is given. Any application for consent to re-use information will be
considered under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005,
but if consent is given a charge may be made to you. Please feel free,
however, to display this response on your website.

Since the coming into force of the Act we have processed over 400 separate
direct requests from people who wrote letters, sent e-mails (with their
name and address) to [Rother District Council request email] <[1]mailto:[Rother District Council request email]> or
used our website. In the majority of these cases we have been able to
supply the information requested within the statutory time limit. We take
seriously our obligation to provide advice and assistance to people who
make genuine requests for information. If your request is not vexatious or
repeated, then I would invite you to make your request to us direct,
complying with section 8 of the Act. I assure you that having regard to
the Data Protection Act 1998 we do not divulge the names or addresses of
people who make requests for information.

You may use our internal complaints procedure if you are dissatisfied. If
you are still dissatisfied you may appeal to the Information
Commissioner. Please contact Anne Bruin, Customer Services Manager, if
you wish to complain.

David Edwards
Interim Solicitor
01424 787840
www.rother.gov.uk

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References

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Richard Jackson

Dear Lynda and/or David and/or Anne,

Please treat this as a formal complaint regarding the response to my FOI request of 14th July. I was informed that such a complaint be made by contacting Anne Bruin, but no email address was provided for her.

I believe I have fully complied with the Act by supplying a request in writing, that states my name and an address for correspondence, and that describes the information requested.

The statement of David Edwards, Interim Solicitor, that I have not fully complied by providing an address for correspondence is self-evidently false due to the correspondence that has transpired. From other public correspondence the Council has had on FOI matters it is also abundantly clear that he, and the Council as a body, are well aware of the guidance issued relating to electronic requests. He has made it perfectly clear, however, that he views "WhatDoYouKnow.com" as an "amateurish website", and seems to be on a campaign to refuse to comply with the Act where a requestor uses this site.

I can only assume that the reference to a "repeated request" refers to the fact that in my request I referred to a prior request made by another individual. However, as my request was explicitly seeking clarification of that request I do not see how it can, in any way, be classed as vexatious or repeated. Classing a request as vexatious is a very serious matter, and whilst Mr Edwards has stopped short of actually doing so, his insistence that I prove to his satisfaction that it is not so is manifestly an unreasonable request in the circumstances.

On the contrary, the refusal by the Council to simply state: "Yes, the wording we chose previously was unfortunately ambiguous - we can confirm that no payments whatsoever were made to this (or any related) organisation" does not help avoid an inference being drawn that, rather, the wording of the original response was deliberately crafted to be misleading and to avoid releasing information, and that this current refusal is part of an attempt to prolong such a deception.

The hoops that Mr Edwards is now attempting to make me jump through to receive a simple response to this appear to be a clear violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Act, and I would request that an internal review of this matter be carried out.

I look forward to your response.

Please confirm receipt of this correspondence.

Richard

Lynda Crawford, Rother District Council

Dear Mr Jackson
I refer to your request received on 14 July 2008 about payments made to Common Purpose.

As regards whether an e-mail address is an "address for correspondence" for the purposes of section 8 (1)(b), I am awaiting guidance from the Information Commissioner.

Thank you for your latest submissions on the point which I will consider.

In the meanwhile, I am concerned that this issue is creating a false impression about this Council, and there is no point in withholding information that is easily supplied without placing significant burdens on the Council, so we will comply with this request on a voluntary, without prejudice, basis.

I confirm that this Council has not made 'any' payments whatsoever to Common Purpose or any organisation associated with it.

You may use our internal complaints procedure if you are dissatisfied. If you are still dissatisfied you may appeal to the Information Commissioner. Please contact Anne Bruin, Team Leader - Customer Services, if you wish to complain.

David Edwards
Interim Solicitor

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Richard Jackson

Dear David,

Thank you for again providing a response before having heard from the OIC on the "address for correspondence" matter.

Can you please clarify whether your response here is provided instead of, or as well as, a response to my formal complaint and request for internal review?

Yours sincerely,

Richard

David Edwards, Rother District Council

Richard,
Clearly, I don't deal with complaints against myself. I forwarded your
complaint to Anne Bruin, Team Leader - Customer Services who is
investigating it. Can I ask, please, if you are now satisfied, that you
confirm to us all that it is withdrawn - or as the case may be. Many
thanks.

Regards,
David.
David Edwards
Interim Solicitor, Rother D.C.
Town Hall, Bexhill TN39 3JX Tel: 01424-787840
www.rother.gov.uk

P please consider the environment, and do not print this email unless it
is really necessary

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Richard Jackson

Dear David,

Although I am happy that the information requested has now been provided, I am still unhappy at the manner in which my request was handled, and as such I would like my complaint to stand, and look forward to Anne's response.

Yours sincerely,

Richard

Anne Bruin, Rother District Council

Dear Mr Jackson

I have been passed your correspondence with David Edwards regarding your
initial wish to complain.

Please can you confirm whether you wish to proceed with a complaint, or
whether this matter has now been resolved to your satisfaction, to enable
me to process the matter as appropriate.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Anne Bruin

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Suzanne Grisbrook, Rother District Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Jackson,

Please find attached a letter in response to your e-mail to Mr Edwards
concerning your Freedom of Information Request.

Yours sincerely

Suzanne Grisbrook

Head of Audit and Business Improvement

Rother District Council

Town Hall

Bexhill-on-Sea

East Sussex

TN39 3JX

Tel: 01424 787716

E-mail: [1][email address]

www.rother.gov.uk

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References

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