Dolce Far-Niente

Dear Oxfordshire County Council,
In the interests of full transparency and public accountabillity, please provide copies of all written forms of communication to and from Councillor and Cabinet Member Mark Gray starting from June 2019 to the present day in relation to any and all matters that mention the following:
- Walton Street
- the Walton Street road closure and Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO)
- on subjects fo traffic, pedestrian, cycling and their stakeholder groups' communications
- the ZEZ plan
- any matters that mention the Jericho ward

Yours faithfully,

Dolce Far-Niente

FOI Team, Oxfordshire County Council

Dear Dolce Far-Niente,

 

I am writing to acknowledge the eight requests which you made on Monday 9
March and the three requests you made on Tuesday 10 March.

 

9 March:

16608: 

16609:

16610:

16611:

16612:

16613:

16614:

16616:

 

10 March:

16625:

16626:

16628:

 

Each of these relate to Walton Street traffic matters. This approach is to
help the authority assess whether or not the requests have individually or
severally, taken together, engaged the Manifestly Unreasonable exception
under the Environmental Information Regulations (or the Freedom of
Information equivalent, where appropriate). This takes into account the
context of other such requests you have sent on the same matter.

 

The Council must and will of course fulfil its due commitment/obligations
to transparency. It must also balance this alongside the public interest
with regard to the deployment of its resources (staff time, money), and
alongside the public interest generally of being able to provide services
to the wider public.

 

This is not to say of course that the Council will not respond to your
request. However I wanted to make you aware that this approach is being
taken. If the Council needs to rely on any such provisions then this will
be fully explained in the response.

 

Our aim is to respond to this request within 20 working days and in any
case by no later than 7 April (for those received on 9 March) and 8 April
(for those received on 10 March).

 

With regards

 

Glenn Watson

Principal Governance Officer.

 

 

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Dolce Far-Niente

Dear FOI Team,
Regarding your reply to my FOI requests, is there a better way I can submit them? I was merely attempting to submit easy-to-tackle requests, rather than a few long ones.
Yours sincerely,

Dolce Far-Niente

FOI Team, Oxfordshire County Council

Dear Dolce Far-Niente

Thanks for your email. I appreciate your query on this, so thank you for that.

The issue for the Council is whether requests, either singly or (where appropriate) taken together, are sufficiently burdensome that there would be a manifestly unreasonable diversion of resources which would not be in the wider public interest. So it is not so much about the manner in which requests are submitted but the effect of them on staff time and public resources. This can't be a blanket matter of course and that's why we mentioned in the acknowledgments that this is not to say the Council won't be able to respond to some or all aspects of your requests - but that we will need to make an assessment of the impact.

Since those acknowledgements, there has of course been the onset of the Covid 19 planning and the Council's staff across all services are understandably being diverted to the review and prioritisation of those services in the wider public interest. I mention this only to indicate that while the Council will endeavour to maintain the expected level of responsiveness to requests, including your own, this situation may also have an impact on authorities' responsiveness to timescales, as the Information Commissioner has recognised. However, that is being kept under review.

With regards

Glenn Watson

Principal Governance Officer

show quoted sections

Dolce Far-Niente

Dear FOI Team, Glenn
Thanks for your reply. I'm sorry the number of FOIs may seem high and sudden. But they are requests from across a community who have serious questions and concerns, and not ill-thought out FOIs. I am the person tasked with doing the FOI requests and collating the information, while others have been allocated other tasks to research in terms of traffic data, air quality data etc. So please don't feel I am intending to deluge you. And of course we understand the Covid-19 effect on everyone.
My good wishes,
Dolce Far-Niente

FOI - E&E, Oxfordshire County Council

Our reference:  16625 EIR

 

Dear Dolce Far-Niente,

 

I am writing to you, further to your requests (16608-16614 EIR,
16625-16626 EIR and 16628) regarding the traffic scheme around Walton
Street.

 

In my earlier acknowledgement, I advised that the Council would need to
consider these requests together and explained that this was due to the
number of requests received, their similarity, and the time period in
which they were submitted. 

 

The Council’s officers in the team concerned have now completed this
assessment.   They have estimated the time they consider would be
necessary to respond to all of these requests. This estimate (to determine
if we hold the information, to locate, retrieve and extract it) is 109.5
hours.  The Council considers this to be an overly significant burden on
the authority, which would manifestly and unreasonably divert the team
away from the delivery of services to the public. Effectively, responding
to these requests would require the deployment of a person full time for
up to three weeks. We have set out a table below as to how this figure has
been estimated.  The Environmental Information Regulations would, however,
at least require the Council to expend some resource in meeting such
requests.  The Council has therefore indicated below how you might scope
these particular requests down to, say, no more than 30 hours. See the
‘advise and assist’ section below

 

The Council has had regard to a public interest test in making its
decision not to comply with these requests, in their present form, under
Regulation 12(4)(b).

 

Public Interest Test

 

Factors in favour of disclosure

o There is a presumption in favour of disclosure of environmental
information
o Disclosure would give greater public understanding, transparency and
accountability about the decisions made by the Council to embark on
the traffic scheme in the Walton Street area, and the effect the
scheme has on travel plans, and the environment.

 

Factors against disclosure

o The Council owes a duty of service across Oxfordshire and it is not in
the public interest that the service in question is so significantly
distracted from this core purpose,
o Transparency has already been created in response to a volume of
requests, over a short period of time, on the same subject, and
further diversion of resources would necessarily divert these away
from other services across the Council
o The public interest has already been substantially met in the
commitment of resource which has already created a reasonable level of
transparency and accountability as to the responsibility for
decisions, how these came about, the rationale for the project, the
evidence on which it has been based and the costings of it

 

In this specific instance, the Council believes that the public interest
is best served in not complying with these requests in their current form.

 

Advice and assistance

While the Council is not able to respond to the requests as framed, the
Council would invite you to scope down your requests to come within, for
example, a period of up to 30 hours.  The officers concerned have given an
estimate of the time it might take to answer each element. You may find
this useful in reframing your requests or selecting which aspects are of
most concern to you.

 

Should you wish to reframe any such request, the Council will of course
consider it.  The Coronavirus situation is causing the diversion of
Council resources away from certain functions, such as responses to
information requests, but the Council will seek to respond to any reframed
response as soon as reasonably practicable. We would inform you if this
were not to be within the 20 working days timeframe.

 

 

Number Requester Hours per response
16608 EIR Dolce Far-Niente 5
16609 EIR Dolce Far-Niente 6
16610 EIR Dolce Far-Niente 13
16611 EIR Dolce Far-Niente 20
16612 EIR Dolce Far-Niente 6
16613 EIR Dolce Far-Niente 3.5
16614 EIR Dolce Far-Niente 15
16625 EIR Dolce Far-Niente 1
16626 EIR Dolce Far-Niente 20
16628 EIR Dolce Far-Niente 20
     
  TOTAL 109.5

 

NB: You will already have had a response to a further request, 16616 FOI,
from the Council’s Fire and Rescue Service.

 

Internal review

If you are dissatisfied with the service or response to your request, you
can ask for an internal review as follows:

 

o Contact the Freedom of Information team in Law & Governance:

[1][Oxfordshire County Council request email] 

o Write to the Freedom of Information team at the FREEPOST address:

 

Freedom of Information Team
Oxfordshire County Council
FREEPOST (RTLL-ECKS-GLUA)
Oxford OX1 1YA

 

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request or complaint,
you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at:

 

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

Telephone: 0303 123 1113 Website:  [2]https://ico.org.uk

 

Please let me know if you have further enquiries. I would be grateful if
you could use the reference number given at the top of this email.

 

With regards

 

Glenn Watson

Principal Governance Officer

Oxfordshire County Council

[3]www.oxfordshire.gov.uk

 

 

 

 

This email, including attachments, may contain confidential information.
If you have received it in error, please notify the sender by reply and
delete it immediately. Views expressed by the sender may not be those of
Oxfordshire County Council. Council emails are subject to the Freedom of
Information Act 2000. [4]email disclaimer. For information about how
Oxfordshire County Council manages your personal information please see
our [5]Privacy Notice.

References

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