Correspondence about bin charging powers

Richard Greenhill made this Freedom of Information request to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

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

Richard Greenhill

Dear Department for Communities and Local Government

In accordance with the Environmental Information Regulations and/or the Freedom of Information Act, please provide me with any correspondence between the Department (including your minister Bob Neill MP) and Broxbourne Borough Council (including its leader Cllr Paul Mason) relating to the 11 April 2011 DCLG/Defra ministerial letter to local authority chief executives headed "Bin charging" (including any subsequent correspondence relating to local authority duties and powers under section 45 or 46 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990).

If you cannot promptly provide a full response, please provide an interim disclosure of the dates and recipients of any such correspondence.

I understand that Mr Neill and Cllr Mason have been in correspondence on this matter but this was not referred to in your department's response and internal review relating to my previous request of 8 October 2011 (your ref: E0005242).

Yours faithfully

Richard Greenhill

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Joint ministerial letter: http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/...
My previous request: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/in...

Elizabeth Coulter, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

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Dear Mr Greenhill,
 
Please find attached confirmation that the Department has received your
request.
 

Regards,

Elizabeth Coulter
Policy Adviser
Accountability and Transparency
Department for Communities and Local Government
3/H6 Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU

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Nick Bagshaw, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

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Dear Mr Greenhill

Please find the attached letter in response to your Freedom of Information
request dated 6 July.

Yours

Nick Bagshaw

<<FOI5949.doc>>

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

Elizabeth Coulter, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

1 Attachment


Mr Greenhill,
 
Please find attached a response to your FOI request.
 

Regards,

Elizabeth Coulter
Policy Adviser
Accountability and Transparency
Department for Communities and Local Government
3/H6 Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU

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Dear Department for Communities and Local Government

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

I am writing to request an internal review of the Department for Communities and Local Government's handling of my EIR/FOI request of 6 July 2012 ("Correspondence about bin charging powers", your ref: F0005949).

In the decision letter of 5 September (emailed to me on 6 September), the department confirmed the existence of relevant information but withheld it all under the exemption in section 36(2)(c) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (information which would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs).

In addition to the general benefits of seeking a second opinion where the department has admitted that there are conflicting factors in its decision, I ask you to reconsider the blanket refusal on the following particular grounds:

1. The department has publicly implied (in its joint ministerial letter of 11 April 2011) that some councils are breaching their legal duties and powers as waste collection authorities. There is therefore an overwhelming public interest in disclosing relevant correspondence between councils and the government, so that waste collection authorities do not appear to evade the law without scrutiny and that the government is seen to be neither covering up for their evasion nor making unfounded or unreasonable accusations against them.

2. Broxbourne Borough Council has so far refused to amend its controversial waste collection scheme, which limits residents to using sacks provided by the council, and charges more than six times the purchase cost price for additional sacks, despite this appearing to contradict the government's strongly-worded advice. It follows that there is an overwhelming public interest in disclosing information that might explain (or expose as disingenuous) the apparent ongoing inconsistency between the positions maintained by the council and by the department.

3. Even if some relevant information were properly exempt (which I doubt, for the reasons above), it is inconceivable that this would exempt the correspondence in its entirety. For example, the number of communications, their dates, and the positions held by the senders and recipients, could not possibly be prejudicial. Moreover, it seems likely that most if not all of each correspondence item would comprise clarifications of the sender's public position (or would expose their hypocrisy if their private position were inconsistent). The exemption appears to have been applied indiscriminately to the entirety of the correspondence, instead of considering each sentence on its own merits.

4. It took exactly two months (nearly 9 weeks) for the department to respond fully to my request, even though this resulted in a simple blanket refusal accompanied by a generic statement of reasons as to why section 36(2)(c) was thought to override the public interest in disclosure. This seems an excessive and unexplained delay.

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

Yours faithfully

Richard Greenhill

FoI Requests, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Dear Richard Greenhill

REQUEST FOR INTERNAL REVIEW

Thank you for your email of 6th September 2012, in which you seek a review of the response provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government to your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The review will be considered under the Department's internal review procedures. A full re-evaluation of your request will be undertaken.

I will today allocate this request to an Internal Review Officer and you should receive a reply by 4th October 2012.

Yours sincerely
Hilarie White

FOI Advice Team
Knowledge and Information Access Branch
Department for Communities and Local Government
Zone 2/A3, Eland House
0303 444 2222

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Jane Everton, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

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Dear Mr Greenhill

I attach a reply in response to your request for a review of the above FOI
request.  I have only emailed this to you as I did not have a postal
address, but I would be happy to also send this in the post if you wish.

Kind regards

Jane Everton

<<121004 letter to Mr Greenhill.doc>>

Jane Everton
 Deputy Director
 Planning - Development Plans Division
 Planning Directorate
 Tel : 0303 44  41342
  [email address]

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

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