Cost of Enforcement - Unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller Camps

Mike Newman made this Freedom of Information request to Sedgemoor District Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was refused by Sedgemoor District Council.

Dear Sedgemoor District Council,

Could you please provide the following information, treating this as a request under the Freedom of Information Act:

1. How many unauthorised traveller camps has the Council taken legal action to remove in the following financial years?

a. 2013/14
b. 2014/15
c. 2015/16

2. What has been the total cost of legal services in pursuance of obtaining the necessary orders to remove unauthorised traveller camps in the following financial years?

a. 2013/14
b. 2014/15
c. 2015/16

3. What has been the total cost of officer time in undertaking welfare checks at unauthorised traveller camps in the following financial years?

a. 2013/14
b. 2014/15
c. 2015/16

4. What has been the total cost of remedial cleaning and making-good of sites after unauthorised traveller camps have moved on in the following financial years?

a. 2013/14
b. 2014/15
c. 2015/16

Yours faithfully,

Mike Newman

Response Team, Sedgemoor District Council

 
 
Dear Mr Newman
 
Freedom of Information Request
 
Thank you for your request for information about Cost of Enforcement -
Unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller Camps.   Your request was received on
10^th May 2016 and I am dealing with it under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.
 
In some circumstances a fee may be payable and if that is the case, I will
let you know. A fees notice will be issued to you, and you will be
required to pay before we will proceed to deal with your request.
 
If you have any queries about this email please contact me.
 
 
Yours sincerely
 
Amanda Gibbs,
Freedom of Information Officer
 
 
 

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Dear Response Team,

I note that this request should by rights receive a response by today, 8th June 2016. I have not received any indication from you that this request will be delayed and therefore would appreciate an update.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Newman

Response Team, Sedgemoor District Council

Thank you for your email.
I am sorry that you have not yet received a response to this request. I am awaiting information from the appropriate department and expect it to be with me by the end of this week. As soon as I have the information I will provide my formal response.

Amanda Gibbs
Records Manager

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Amanda Gibbs, Sedgemoor District Council

Thank you for your request. Apologies for the delay in the response.
Please find below the information you require.
 
1. How many unauthorised traveller camps has the Council taken legal
action to remove in the following financial years?
 
a. 2013/14
b. 2014/15
c. 2015/16
 
2013/14 – 0
2014/15 – 4
2015/16 – 0
 
This relates only to actions for possession taken against travellers who
have occupied council owned land.  It excludes action taken through the
planning regime against travellers who have purchased their own land and
occupied without, or in breach of, planning permission.
 
 
2. What has been the total cost of legal services in pursuance of
obtaining the necessary orders to remove unauthorised traveller camps in
the following financial years?
 
a. 2013/14 - £0
b. 2014/15 - £280 court fee x 4
c. 2015/16 - £0
 
As the Council employs its own in-house legal team who obtain the
necessary court orders, there is no additional cost to the Council in
obtaining the orders save for the court fees involving in issuing court
proceedings which are set out above.  
 
3. What has been the total cost of officer time in undertaking welfare
checks at unauthorised traveller camps in the following financial years?
 
a. 2013/14
b. 2014/15
c. 2015/16
 
The total cost of officer time in undertaking welfare checks is not
separately recorded and the Council therefore does not hold this
information.
 
4. What has been the total cost of remedial cleaning and making-good of
sites after unauthorised traveller camps have moved on in the following
financial years?
 
a. 2013/14
b. 2014/15
c. 2015/16
 
Operational costs for cleaning sites have not been accounted for
separately. No additional resources were brought in, all cleansing
services have been carried out by the in house cleansing teams being
diverted temporarily from their normal duties.
 
If you are dissatisfied with the response provided, the Authority’s
procedure provides for you to make a complaint, which will be dealt with
through the Council’s normal complaints procedure.  Should you not then be
satisfied with the outcome you have a right of appeal to the Information
Commissioner. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire SK9 5AF.
 
Amanda Gibbs
Records Manager
 
_____________________________________________

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Dear Sedgemoor District Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Sedgemoor District Council's handling of my FOI request 'Cost of Enforcement - Unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller Camps'.

The respondent chose to answer the questions on the basis that no additional costs were incurred from outside sources. This is not the question I posed, and appears to be an effort to avoid answering the question fully. I do not think that restricting a response to external costs is a reasonable interpretation of my request as submitted.

If there was any doubt about the scope of my request, I would have expected the Council to consider its duties under s16(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in terms of providing advice and assistance to those seeking information.

Moreover, the request was not answered within the timescales outlined s10(1) of the act, so ample time was available to ascertain the scope of my request if necessary.

I would therefore request an internal review of this request, with respect to the questions to which an answer was not provided.

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

Yours faithfully,

Mike Newman

Amanda Gibbs, Sedgemoor District Council

Thank you for your email. I have passed your request for a review to Ms Wellman, Monitoring Officer, who will carry out a review.

Amanda Gibbs
Records Manager

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Melanie Wellman, Sedgemoor District Council

Dear Mr Newman

Your e mail dated 9 June 2016 requesting a review of Mrs Gibbs response in relation to your Freedom of Information request has been passed to me for my attention. I will conduct my review and let you have a response by the 7 July 2016.

Yours sincerely

Melanie Wellman
Group Manager (Legal) and Monitoring Officer

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Dear Melanie Wellman,

I note that the Internal Review of this request is due by today, but I have yet to hear any more from your department. I would appreciate an update.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Newman

Melanie Wellman, Sedgemoor District Council

I write further to your Freedom of Information request dated 10 May 2016 and to your request for a review dated the 9 June 2016.

Your original request dated 10 May was for:-

1. How many unauthorised traveller camps has the Council taken legal action to remove in the following financial years?

a. 2013/14
b. 2014/15
c. 2015/16

2. What has been the total cost of legal services in pursuance of obtaining the necessary orders to remove unauthorised traveller camps in the following financial years?

a. 2013/14
b. 2014/15
c. 2015/16

3. What has been the total cost of officer time in undertaking welfare checks at unauthorised traveller camps in the following financial years?

a. 2013/14
b. 2014/15
c. 2015/16

4. What has been the total cost of remedial cleaning and making-good of sites after unauthorised traveller camps have moved on in the following financial years?

a. 2013/14
b. 2014/15
c. 2015/16

Mrs Gibbs responded to your request on 9 June 2016 as follows:

1. How many unauthorised traveller camps has the Council taken legal action to remove in the following financial years?

2013/14 – 0
2014/15 – 4
2015/16 – 0

This relates only to actions for possession taken against travellers who have occupied council owned land. It excludes action taken through the planning regime against travellers who have purchased their own land and occupied without, or in breach of, planning permission.

2. What has been the total cost of legal services in pursuance of obtaining the necessary orders to remove unauthorised traveller camps in the following financial years?

a. 2013/14 - £0
b. 2014/15 - £280 court fee x 4
c. 2015/16 - £0

As the Council employs its own in-house legal team who obtain the necessary court orders, there is no additional cost to the Council in obtaining the orders save for the court fees involving in issuing court proceedings which are set out above.

3. What has been the total cost of officer time in undertaking welfare checks at unauthorised traveller camps in the following financial years?

The total cost of officer time in undertaking welfare checks is not separately recorded and the Council therefore does not hold this information.

4. What has been the total cost of remedial cleaning and making-good of sites after unauthorised traveller camps have moved on in the following financial years?

Operational costs for cleaning sites have not been accounted for separately. No additional resources were brought in, all cleansing services have been carried out by the in house cleansing teams being diverted temporarily from their normal duties.

I have conducted a review of the response to your Freedom of Information request and would respond as follows:-

In your request for review you have stated that the Council had chosen to answer the questions on the basis that no additional costs were incurred from outside sources. You state that this is not the question you posed and that you were not restricting a response to external costs. You were also seeking details of internal costs. You feel that if there had been any confusion, you should have been asked for further clarification. Your request for review therefore relates to questions 2 and 4 of your request and the fact that information was not provided in relation to internal costs.

Furthermore, you point out that the response was not made within the 20 days prescribed by the legislation.

I have carefully reviewed Mrs Gibbs decision. I note that you were seeking information regarding internal costs and that this was not provided. I have therefore clarified the position and would respond to questions to 2 and 4 as regards internal costs as follows:-

The total cost of internal officer time in obtaining the necessary orders or of remedial cleaning and making good of sites is not available. Council officers either do not time record or where they do time record, do not separately identify the time spent as relating to the removal of unauthorised traveller camps. For these reasons, the Council is unable to provide you with the information you are seeking.

In relation to the timescale for responding, I concur that Mrs Gibbs did not provide you with the information within the 20 days prescribed. The information should have been provided by the 8th June 2016 and was instead provided on the 9th June 2016. I apologise on behalf of the Council for the delay in submitting this information to you.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of this review you have a right of appeal to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely

Melanie Wellman
Group Manager (Legal) and Monitoring Officer

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Dear Melanie Wellman,

When this question was answered and the Internal Review conducted, you assured me that there was no internal accounting for the cost of officer time in these matters. You also informed me that a total of £240 had been spent on legal matters.

The article referenced below suggests that:

1. You do have the ability to account for the 'people' costs of managing traveller camps and the clean-up after they leave
2. That, if one instance of court action costs at least £400, the answer provided was entirely under-estimated.

The article can be found at: http://burnham-on-sea.com/news/2016/trav...

Could I ask that this request is reviewed promptly as I am now minded to approach the Information Commissioner's Office on the basis that this information is held by Sedgemoor District Council, but that you are choosing to withhold it. As your Press Office has recently released a 'ballpark' figure, it would seem entirely in the public interest to provide this information.

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

Yours faithfully,

Mike Newman

Melanie Wellman, Sedgemoor District Council

Dear Mr Newman

Thank you for your e mail.

The position is as set out in my response to your Freedom of Information request. Council officers either do not time record or where they do time record, do not separately identify the time spent as relating to the removal of unauthorised traveller camps. For these reasons, the Council is unable to provide you with the information you are seeking.

I have checked with our Public Relations team and they have confirmed that the Council were clear when speaking to the press, that not all costs are available for the reasons I have outlined. We also did not provide the figure of £5000 that was quoted. We can only assume that this was estimated.

As I have advised you previously, if you are dissatisfied with the outcome, you are obviously at liberty to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner.

Yours sincerely

Melanie Wellman

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Mike Newman left an annotation ()

This request has now been referred to the Information Commissioner .