Breakdown on FOI Requests and Rejections

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 a report from the Director of Resources in 2004 (found at http://www.rother.gov.uk/media.cfm?media...) it was recommend that "all proposed rejections are submitted to the Legal Services Manager for prior approval and if appropriate, ratification."

Can you please clarify whether this policy (or any other similar policy) was adopted, and also provide a breakdown, by calendar year, of the total number of requests received, and of those how many were (a) rejected, and (b) proposed for rejection but overruled by the Legal Services Manager or other official.

If this information is not held in a format that allows you to provide a full response within the allowable costs, please explain why and also provide for as many years, working backwards chronologically, as is possible. However as, in response to a recent FOI request, David Edwards,
Interim Solicitor, stated that there have only been approximately 400 requests to the Council since the Act came into force I trust that there should be no problem with complying in full.

Yours faithfully,

Richard

Lynda Crawford, Rother District Council

Dear Mr Jackson
I refer to your request regarding a breakdown on FOI Requests.

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:
• clearly does not have any serious purpose or value;
• is designed to cause disruption or annoyance;
• has the effect of harassing the public authority; or
• 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] 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

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Richard Jackson

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am astounded by this response, which appears to be little more than an attempt to avoid complying with the Act. As you are well aware it has been long since established that an email address is a perfectly fine address for correspondence.

Your insinuations that the request may be repeated or vexatious, in generalised terms without actually declaring it to be so, are quite frankly insulting.

Please either provide the information requested or formally refuse to do so, stating your reasons in full.

Richard

Lynda Crawford, Rother District Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Jackson

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000

I refer to your request received on 24 July 2008 about Freedom of Information statistics.

On examination there appears to be a flaw in the Report to Cabinet of 6 December 2004 in that the wording to which you refer was not actually carried up into the Recommendations which were for adoption. Accordingly, this was not adopted but in practice it is followed.

I list below the yearly breakdown of requests received/rejected.

2005 - 111 accepted of which 12 were rejected
2006 - 99 accepted of which 3 were rejected
2007 - 104 accepted of which 1 was rejected
2008 (to end of July) - 98 accepted of which 1 was rejected

The attached table is extracted from our tracking database. We have not kept records of cases where Services had requested exemptions but were overruled by me. The table reflects cases where requests were refused, there is no record of cases where information was released contrary to the wishes of the Services concerned and so this information is not held.

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

David,

Thank you for this response. Can you please clarify the wording used though, as I'm not sure what (for example) "99 accepted of which 3 were rejected" actually means. Does "accepted" simply mean "received" here, or do you have some other categorisation whereby requests can be received but not accepted? I'm a little unclear as to how a request can be both accepted and rejected.

Thanks,

Richard

David Edwards, Rother District Council

Richard,

The key document is the table. In the e-mail the terminology may be
incorrect; "accepted" means received and treated as a valid request.
Invalid requests are not logged. They might be legally invalid, but they
could also relate to the work of another public authority such as the
County Council, to whom the enquirer would be referred without the
request having been processed here. "Rejected" means refused having
regard to one of the statutory exemptions. Please bear in mind that the
main objective for which records are kept is to enable us to track
compliance with the 20-working-day compliance period.

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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