Extract of hospitality and gifts register for Planning Department Personnel

Alex Britcliffe made this Freedom of Information request to Ribble Valley Borough 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.

Dear Ribble Valley Borough Council,

Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 I hereby request disclosure of the hospitality and gifts registered on the Council's Register by members of the Council's Planning Department, for the years 2008 to 2011.

Yours faithfully,

Alexander Britcliffe

Debbie Nuttall, Ribble Valley Borough Council

Thank-you for your email.
I am out of the office until Tuesday 3 January 2012. I will deal with your email on my return. If your query is urgent, please contact Diane Rice at [email address].

Many thanks.
Best regards,
Debbie

Best in the country for customer satisfaction – 94 per cent of Ribble Valley residents are satisfied with life in the borough (Place Survey 2009)

This transmission is intended for the named addressee(s) only and may contain sensitive, protectively marked or restricted material, and should be handled accordingly. Unless you are the named addressee (or authorised to receive it for the addressee) you may not copy, use, or disclose it to anyone else. If you have received this transmission in error, notify the sender immediately. All GCSX traffic may be subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation. This e-mail is issued subject to Ribble Valley Borough Council’s e-mail disclaimer, which you are taken to have read and accepted. Visit http://www.ribblevalley.gov.uk/disclaimer for further details.

Toni Towers, Ribble Valley Borough Council

Dear Sir or Madam
Thank-you for your request for information on hospitality/gifts. It
was received by Ribble Valley Borough Council ("the Council") on 21
December 2011 and has been dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 ("the Act").
With regard to your enquiry, we would respond as follows:-
From the records we hold there has been one gift to the planning team
during the period you have specified, which consisted of flowers, wine
and chocolates from a single planning applicant in 2011.
The information supplied to you continues to be protected by the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You are free to use it for
your own purposes, including any non-commercial research you are doing
and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for example
commercial publication, would require the permission of the copyright
holder.
If you have any queries about this email please feel free to contact me
at the above email address or by telephone on 01200 414403.
If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to
your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our
decision, you should write to Diane Rice, Legal Services Manager, Ribble
Valley Borough Council, Council Offices, Church Walk, Clitheroe,
Lancashire, BB7 2RA.
If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply
directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the
Information Commissioner's Office cannot make a decision unless you have
exhausted the complaints procedure provided by Ribble Valley Borough
Council. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The
Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire SK9 5AF.
Regards
Toni Towers
Legal Assistant
Ribble Valley Borough Council
01200 414536

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Dear Toni Towers,

Further to your response dated 3 January 2012 I note that you have withheld details I would reasonably expect would be recorded on your hospitality and gifts register.

The details I would expect include the identity of the parties offering and receiving the gifts, the date the offer was received, and whether the gift was accepted or declined.

Please could an extract of the gifts and hospitality log for the period originally requested including the above details be provided.

Yours sincerely,

Alex Britcliffe

Toni Towers, Ribble Valley Borough Council

I am away from the office until 9 January 2012. I will respond to you on my return. If your query is urgent please contact John Gorton on 01200 414419.

Best in the country for customer satisfaction – 94 per cent of Ribble Valley residents are satisfied with life in the borough (Place Survey 2009)

This transmission is intended for the named addressee(s) only and may contain sensitive, protectively marked or restricted material, and should be handled accordingly. Unless you are the named addressee (or authorised to receive it for the addressee) you may not copy, use, or disclose it to anyone else. If you have received this transmission in error, notify the sender immediately. All GCSX traffic may be subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation. This e-mail is issued subject to Ribble Valley Borough Council’s e-mail disclaimer, which you are taken to have read and accepted. Visit http://www.ribblevalley.gov.uk/disclaimer for further details.

Toni Towers, Ribble Valley Borough Council

Dear Sir

The hospitality register contains very minimal information which
consists of the date, recipient, details of the gift and the gift giver.
As you may be aware, the names or the addresses of any individuals in
the register would constitute personal data (in respect of which you are
not the data subject). The disclosure of this information would, in my
view, contravene the data protection principles. This information would
therefore be exempt under section 40(2) of the Act. I have therefore
removed any information that relates to the individuals' name. I can
tell you that the gift was given and accepted by the planning team on 28
June 2011. Providing you with an extract of the book will not provide
you with any additional information other than the giver's name and the
member of staff who accepted the gift on behalf of the planning team. We
are a ver small two tier district council and corporate and hospitality
gifts are very rare nowadays. I am sorry I am unable to provide you with
any additional information.

Best regards
Toni Towers
Legal Assistant
Ribble Valley Borough Council
01200 414536

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Dear Toni Towers,

Please could it be confirmed if the giver was acting as an agent of a body corporate, or a private individual. In the event the individual was acting as an agent of a body corporate, please could the identity of that body corporate be provided.

Yours sincerely,

Alex Britcliffe

Toni Towers, Ribble Valley Borough Council

I am away from the office until 12 January 2012. I will respond to you on my return. If your query is urgent please contact John Gorton on 01200 414419.

Best in the country for customer satisfaction – 94 per cent of Ribble Valley residents are satisfied with life in the borough (Place Survey 2009)

This transmission is intended for the named addressee(s) only and may contain sensitive, protectively marked or restricted material, and should be handled accordingly. Unless you are the named addressee (or authorised to receive it for the addressee) you may not copy, use, or disclose it to anyone else. If you have received this transmission in error, notify the sender immediately. All GCSX traffic may be subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation. This e-mail is issued subject to Ribble Valley Borough Council’s e-mail disclaimer, which you are taken to have read and accepted. Visit http://www.ribblevalley.gov.uk/disclaimer for further details.

Toni Towers, Ribble Valley Borough Council

Dear Sir

The name listed is an individual.

Regards

Toni Towers
Legal Assistant
Ribble Valley Borough Council
01200 414536

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Richard Taylor left an annotation ()

The user drew this response to the attention of the WhatDoTheyKnow team, asking for advice.

I responded suggesting requesting an internal review.

While the FOI exemption for personal information is absolute and does not require a public interest test to be carried out; what matters according to the ICO guidance is if disclosing the information would be in breach of the Data Protection Act. Information someone would not expect to be kept private, or information relating to someone's public, rather than private, life may well be disclosable without breaching the act.

A request for an internal review could ask the council to consider if as a planning application is something done in public, and is part of someone's public life, any information on any related gift should also be considered a public transaction and therefore disclosable.

The details of the council's policy on gifts and hospitality might also be relevant, and a request for an internal review could ask for them to be considered. The council may for example have a policy allowing members of the public to inspect the register, if they do then they should have noted this as part of the advice and assistance they are required to provide under S16 of the Freedom of Information Act.

It may be the council's policies require a senior officer to authorise the acceptance of a gift. There may be relevant details in any record of a decision to make such an authorisation.

Another point which could be made in an internal review request is that by answering the request in the way they have we don't know the date of the gift, or the date it was recorded on the register. We also don't know if there is a "value" column in the register which has been left blank.

The Information Commissioner's guidance on the application of the personal information exemption is at :

http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/...

--

Richard - WhatDoTheyKnow.com volunteer

Richard Taylor left an annotation ()

My personal view is that the register doesn't appear to be fulfilling its apparent purpose if the council isn't willing to release its contents in cases like this.

I also question the judgement of the council officer(s) who accepted this gift, as even if the circumstances were innocent it doesn't look good for council officials responsible for making decisions to be accepting gifts from those affected by those decisions.

Richard Taylor left an annotation ()

It has been suggested via Twitter that paragraph 6(2) of Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act which allows the council to release information "for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued" may be relevant.

http://twitter.com/#!/ActNowTraining/sta...
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998...

Dear Ribble Valley Borough Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Ribble Valley Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Extract of hospitality and gifts register for Planning Department Personnel'.

While the FOI exemption for personal information is absolute and does not require a public interest test to be carried out; what matters according to the ICO guidance is if disclosing the information would be in breach of the Data Protection Act. Information someone would not expect to be kept private, or information relating to someone's public, rather than private, life may well be disclosable without breaching the act.

Accordingly, I ask the council to consider if as a planning application is something done in public, and is part of someone's public life, any information on any related gift should also be considered a public transaction and therefore disclosable.

In the alternative, 6(2) of Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act allows the council to release information "for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued" would appear relevant. and I ask the council to consider the applicability of this item, and advise on its finding.

The details of the council's policy on gifts and hospitality might also be relevant, and I request for these to be considered and advised.

By answering the request in the way you have the date of the gift, or the date it was recorded on the register have not been advised, nor if there is a "value" column in the register which has been left blank. Accordingly, I hereby request the withholding of this information is reviewed.

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

Yours faithfully,

Alex Britcliffe

Debbie Nuttall, Ribble Valley Borough Council

Thank-you for your email.
I am out of the office until Wednesday 17 January 2012. I will deal with your email on my return. If your query is urgent, please contact Diane Rice at [email address].

Many thanks.
Best regards,
Debbie

Best in the country for customer satisfaction – 94 per cent of Ribble Valley residents are satisfied with life in the borough (Place Survey 2009)

This transmission is intended for the named addressee(s) only and may contain sensitive, protectively marked or restricted material, and should be handled accordingly. Unless you are the named addressee (or authorised to receive it for the addressee) you may not copy, use, or disclose it to anyone else. If you have received this transmission in error, notify the sender immediately. All GCSX traffic may be subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation. This e-mail is issued subject to Ribble Valley Borough Council’s e-mail disclaimer, which you are taken to have read and accepted. Visit http://www.ribblevalley.gov.uk/disclaimer for further details.

Diane Rice, Ribble Valley Borough Council

Dear Mr Britcliffe
 
thankyou for your request for a review dated 17th January 2012 of the
Council's decision to withold some of the information requested in your
Freedom of information request .I have considered the matter carefully and
tried to balance the importance of transparency against the issue of data
protection .
 
In this case, as only  one entry was involved I decided that it would be
practical to address the data protection issue with the donor and can
confirm the donor's identity in the register is Mr Chohan , the date of
the entry was the 28th June 2011 , there is no value column in the
register.
 
I hope this information is of assistance .

If you remain dissatisfied, you can seek an independent review from the
Information Commissioner.

Requests for a review by the Information Commissioner should be made in
writing directly to: The Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water
Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

best wishes

Diane Rice

 
Link: [1]File-List

Best in the country for customer satisfaction – 94 per cent of Ribble
Valley residents are satisfied with life in the borough (Place Survey
2009)

 

This transmission is intended for the named addressee(s) only and may
contain sensitive, protectively marked or restricted material, and should
be handled accordingly. Unless you are the named addressee (or authorised
to receive it for the addressee) you may not copy, use, or disclose it to
anyone else. If you have received this transmission in error, notify the
sender immediately. All GCSX traffic may be subject to recording and/or
monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation. This e-mail is issued
subject to Ribble Valley Borough Council’s e-mail disclaimer, which you
are taken to have read and accepted. Click [2]here for further details.

References

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Alex Britcliffe left an annotation ()

A quick search of the Ribble Valley Borough Council website identifies a number of planning applications from a resident in Longridge, including application 3/2011/0202, which was for removal of conservatory, part demolition of attached garage, proposed erection of two storey front and side extensions, erection of single storey rear extension with green roof function, increase in roof pitch to accommodate for loft conversion, 2 dormers to south east elevation, solar photovoltaic integrated tile panels to SE elevation, internal alterations and additional parking.

The above application was refused by committee on the 17th of June 2011 and taken to Appeal, which was subsequently approved with a number of conditions. It is notable that the gift came after the initial refusal, and prior to the successful appeal.

This sequence of events raises serious concerns about the integrity of RVBC planning committee.

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