Feb-Mar 2020 Minutes for town council meetings and documents referenced

The request was partially successful.

Dear Ammanford Town Council, Carmarthenshire,

I've looked on the Council's website but still can't find Minutes of meetings held by the town council during February and March 2020; and the documents referenced.

On 4 May 2020 the current Town Clerk told the Council (and Members of the Public) that these missing Minutes would be uploaded to the Council's website by "the end of the week" - namely 8 May 2020; but has not done so.

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales instructed the Council on 10 January 2020 to formally consider and verify that "the minutes of the previous meeting along with any documents referred to in the minutes have been published electronically in accordance with Section 55 of the Local Government Wales Act 2013". The PSOW found on 20 February that these (and other) remedial actions had not been completed, and received confirmation by the town clerk that the documents would be published within the ten working days following. On 26 March the PSOW wrote "I noted that there was no evidence that the Council had implemented the agreed verification process at subsequent meetings. I was concerned that the Council’s failure to publish minutes of recent meetings was suggestive of a broader lack of regard for its statutory obligations in relation to the provision of information. For this reason, I determined that it would be appropriate to commence an investigation in order to explore these matters further."

The Information Commissioner has previously issued two Decision Notices (FS50755792 & FS50711667) upholding ten complaints relating to missing minutes for the period August 2016 to April 2018.

Please can you provide copies of the February and March 2020 Minutes, as well as the documents referenced? If it is more convenient to upload and link them directly on the town council's website, then please just advise of the new links.

For the avoidance of doubt, this request has been made electronically using the WhatDoTheyKnow platform. I would like the Council to respond electronically using the WhatDoTheyKnow platform.

Yours faithfully,

D Morris

Clerk, Ammanford Town Council, Carmarthenshire

Dear Mr Morris,

I have uploaded the minutes for the period in question.

Although they are in draft format and the majority of the have been ratified, however, owing to the COVID 19 position, I am not able to gain access to my office to upload the signed Minutes that have been ratified.

Yours sincerely,
Duncan Morgan

Duncan Morgan
Town Clerk and Responsible Finance Officer/Clerc Y Dref a Swyddog Cyllid Cyfrifol
Ammanford Town Council/Cyngor Tref Rhydaman
Iscennen Road/Heol Iscennen
Ammanford/Rhydaman
Carmarthenshire/Sir Gaerfyrddyn
SA18 3BE
Email: [Ammanford Town Council, Carmarthenshire request email]
Tel 01269 839570 option 9 followed by 667

show quoted sections

Dear Ammanford Town Council, Carmarthenshire,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Ammanford Town Council, Carmarthenshire's handling of my FOI request 'Feb-Mar 2020 Minutes for town council meetings and documents referenced'.

I appreciate that Draft Minutes have now been uploaded to the Council's website, whilst working through the Minutes I note that none of the documents referenced have been provided, which was a focus of my original request.

The Council should be mindful that the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales instructed the Council on 10 January 2020 to formally consider and verify that "the minutes of the previous meeting along with any documents referred to in the minutes have been published electronically in accordance with Section 55 of the Local Government Wales Act 2013". The PSOW found on 20 February that these (and other) remedial actions had not been completed, and received confirmation by the town clerk that the documents would be published within the ten working days following. On 26 March the PSOW wrote "I noted that there was no evidence that the Council had implemented the agreed verification process at subsequent meetings. I was concerned that the Council’s failure to publish minutes of recent meetings was suggestive of a broader lack of regard for its statutory obligations in relation to the provision of information. For this reason, I determined that it would be appropriate to commence an investigation in order to explore these matters further."

Furthermore the Information Commissioner gave extensive direction to the Council just this week in her scathing Decision Notice (FS50837144) of 19 May 2020, with specific directions regarding the Council's Records Management obligations (see the 16 paragraphs following "23. The Commissioner finds it completely unacceptable...").

A clear example of missing referenced documents are in the Minutes of 9 March 2020, Agenda point 6.3 - the one letter referenced is missing. I'm sure Councillors will also want the three other ICO complaints that the Clerk referred to by their reference numbers in the meeting, claiming "all requests have been dealt with in February" to also be included in the Minutes.

I appreciate that the Covid19 pandemic has changed many of our working lives (for those of us fortunate enough to still have work). Since all of the ICO correspondence was served on the Council in electronic form (with paper copies when the Council wasn't responding) there is no reason not to have provided those referenced documents, already. Alternatively you could have arranged with Carol the Cleaner to access materials in the Iscennen Rd office at any time, such as when going to retrieve the Rialtas laptop (needed for the financial returns that are missing since early December 2019), as a Welsh Government sanctioned essential work journey.

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

For the avoidance of doubt, this request has been made electronically using the WhatDoTheyKnow platform. I would like the Council to respond electronically using the WhatDoTheyKnow platform.

Yours faithfully,

D Morris

Dear Clerk,

Ten weeks ago I requested that you pass this matter along to the person who conducts Internal Reviews. The Freedom Of Information Act (2000) required someone at the Council to respond promptly, and in any event within twenty working days.

A case file has been opened with the ICO.

Does the Council intend to complete this review without further direction, Information Notices or more threats to apply to the High Court to hold the Council in contempt of court?

Yours sincerely,

D Morris

Clerk, Ammanford Town Council, Carmarthenshire

Dear Mr Morris,

It is the intention of Ammanford Town Council to respond to you request.

However, owing to work commitments and ill health of Councillors, your request for an Internal Review will not be processed at this time.

I will review the position in 3 weeks and update you accordingly.

Your sincerely,

Duncan Morgan
Town Clerk and Responsible Finance Officer/Clerc Y Dref a Swyddog Cyllid Cyfrifol
Ammanford Town Council/Cyngor Tref Rhydaman
Iscennen Road/Heol Iscennen
Ammanford/Rhydaman
Carmarthenshire/Sir Gaerfyrddyn
SA18 3BE
Email: [Ammanford Town Council, Carmarthenshire request email]
Tel 01269 839570 option 9 followed by 667

show quoted sections

Dear Clerk,

There have been 109 days since the request for an internal review was made. There were fifteen Councillors, so 1635 man-days have passed. Feigning illness and/or work for that length of time is unbelievable.

You also failed to review the position after 3 weeks, nor provide any update.

This complaint to the ICO has reached the head of the queue (7 Sep 2020), and a Senior Case Officer wrote to you/the Council instructing it to complete the Internal Review within 10 days. I hope you don't ignore this letter from them this time.

Yours sincerely,

D Morris

Daniel Morris left an annotation ()

This had been marked by another user as Refused. I think the net effect of the parrot sleeping is similar, but strictly they haven't refused.

The Council may of course be hoping that the gagging order they passed on iffy maths and in breach of their own standing orders (targeting me) would shield them from scrutiny.

ICO Senior Case Officer wrote on 07 Sep 2020, giving them ten days to complete the Internal Review. Other open cases have seen the ICO staff slam the door shut on tardy respondents recently, making Decisions and setting out enforcement action in the absence of replies from unreasonable feet-draggers.

Clerk, Ammanford Town Council, Carmarthenshire

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Morris,

With reference to your email request below an Internal Review has been undertaken and the following information has been collated.

As you are aware the minutes for the period in question have been published on the Ammanford Town Council website as per your original FOI request.

I have enclosed the following documentation:-

Minutes 3 February 2020 - The items of correspondence referred to by the member of the public have been enclosed. With regard to Member Interests they are as follows:-
Cllr Colin Evans - County Councillor
Cllr Deian Harries - Ammanford AFC & County Councillor
Cllr Gruff Harrison - Ammanford RFC
Cllr Rhodri Jones - Ammanford AFC
Cllr Rhys Fisher - Ammanford AFC
Cllr Stephen Davies - Ammanford AFC
The above information is declared by each Councillor present for each meeting.

Minutes 13 February 2020 - The Report referred to in the minutes has been enclosed

Minutes 9 March 2020 -
With reference to the letter you refer to in point 6.3 in your email below, unfortunately, owning to the encryption status, I have been unable to print the letter to remove information in order to comply with GDPR to enable the aforementioned to be scanned.
The correspondence sent to ICO has been included.

At the time of this response the information stated and included this response is the only information that is currently available.

Owing to the time spend gathering this information together with the time already allocated to investigating the cases concerned in this request, under the terms of Ammanford Town Council's Vexatious Policy, no other time will be allocated to dealing with any matters relating to or linked with this request.

Your sincerely,
Duncan Morgan

Duncan Morgan
Town Clerk and Responsible Finance Officer/Clerc Y Dref a Swyddog Cyllid Cyfrifol
Ammanford Town Council/Cyngor Tref Rhydaman
Iscennen Road/Heol Iscennen
Ammanford/Rhydaman
Carmarthenshire/Sir Gaerfyrddyn
SA18 3BE
Email: [Ammanford Town Council, Carmarthenshire request email]
Tel 01269 839570 option 9 followed by 667

show quoted sections

Daniel Morris left an annotation ()

Wow!
The Clerk's inattention to detail continues to astound.

1) Gruff Harrison, RFC or AFC? His blossoming bromance makes an RFC affiliation unlikely (best practice of not relying on TLAs would have caught this gaff).

2) Owning encryption? I can't fathom that.

3) Whining about the time taken to provide documents that he was legally required to have supplied in electronic form to the public and Councillors when publishing the Agenda (and the Council having paid £375 in fines from PSOW already for this)?? Gathering the info was at most 10 minutes of effort.

4) Including the file titled "Letter to Firstname Lastname (9-3-2020) Case FS50904938 - Identity Removed.pdf" in the zip? Priceless. [where First & Last really were the names of the supposedly 'Identity Removed' person]

Does howler (4) trump the Clerk circulating the ICO's non-anonymised Decision Notice to Councillors and all Members of the Public (that passed vetting to join the public meeting) recently, instead of the anonymised version?