Dear Scarborough Borough Council,
A letter purportedly sent by Lisa Dixon to to myself on the states the following:
“I am a solicitor and Head of Legal and Democratic Services at Scarborough Borough Council.”
The letter goes on to state:
“Scarborough Borough Council considers that the publication of some of the articles and comments currently on the website is likely to constitute criminal activity.”
Please can you confirm that the Scarborough Borough Council Monitoring Officer, Lisa Dixon, wrote this letter.
I can find no mention of any council meeting where this matter has been raised, and the letter states that Lisa Dixon is writing for council, not council officers.
Please indicate by what delegated authority Lisa Dixon is claiming to speak for council if there has been no consensus from councillors for Lisa Dixon to take this action.
Please detail the council meeting at which such authority was delegated to Lisa Dixon. If the minute detailing this is in the public domain, as it should be, then a URL to the appropriate document will suffice.
Thank you for your written communication of 2 April 2013. Your request has been referred to the responsible officer and a response should be made within the statutory timeframe of 20 working days from the date of receipt.
In some circumstances a fee may be payable and if that is the case, we 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.
Please ensure that any further communication in relation to this matter is sent by you to the Freedom of Information Officer at the above address quoting the reference in the subject line of this communication.
Dear Scarborough Borough Council,
I've not had any information from yourselves pertaining to the 'Legal Letters Sent to Real Whitby' FOI request. I would like to remind you that by law you should have promptly responded by 1st May 2013. Please provide this information immediately. If you are unable to do this please provide a timescale for doing so.
Good morning, please find letter attached sent on behalf of Lisa Dixon,
Scarborough Borough Council
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Europe's Most Enterprising Place - Winner 2009
International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) - Project of the Year Award 2009
Academy of Urbanism - 'The Great Town' - Winner 2010
Many thanks for your reply. After having examined the Constitution at length, I can find no part of it that delegates authority to Lisa Dixon to enable the sending of these letters on behalf of Council.
Please can you detail the part or parts of the Constitution which you believe delegate the necessary authority.
Dear Mr Thorne
I write pursuant to your request for a review of the Council's response to
your request (reference FOIA2457).
I apologise for the delay in providing this response to you.
As I understand matters, your request for review is in the following
"After having examined the Constitution at length, I can find no part of
it that delegates authority to Lisa Dixon to enable the sending of these
letters on behalf of Council.
Please can you detail the part or parts of the Constitution which you
believe delegate the necessary authority."
Firstly, the Council has supplied you with a link to the constitution
which contains the information regarding the delegation of authority to
Council Officers, including Mrs Dixon. In that respect, the Council has
supplied you with the information held which is relevant to your request.
That said, in the spirit of providing help and advice, I set out a
response to your further query below:
Firstly, please note that the Council's Constitution is a document which
is amended regularly. This is (inter alia) to reflect changes in the
Council structure, relevant legislation and policy. Prior to an amendment
coming into force, and before the published text of the Constitution is
amended to reflect the same, the Council must first determine that the
change should be made. In that respect, amendments to the published text
of the document will always be implemented after the decision is made to
amend. Occasionally this can take a while.
The most recently published version of the Constitution is available on
the Council's website at:
Amendments were also made to the constitution by Full Council on 13 May
2013 (having been recommended for approval by Cabinet on 23 April 2013).
These amendments have not yet been incorporated in the published version,
however the report which went to Cabinet and Full Council is available
publicly via the following link:
In summary, the above report sought to amend the constitution to reflect
the changes to the Council's Senior Management Structure, and for Members
to note that the Constitution was presently being reviewed by Officers.
Delegations to Officers are dealt with in Schedule 3 of Part 3 of the
constitution, which can be accessed here:
This must be read in light of the amendments outlined above.
The most relevant parts of Schedule 3 are:
(a) Paragraph 2.1 - this makes it clear that the scheme sets out "powers
and duties within broad functional descriptions and includes all powers
and duties under all legislation present and future within those
descriptions and all incidental powers and duties, including…" There then
follows a short list of some of the areas covered. This list is by no
means exhaustive, and the paragraph is expressed in very general terms,
hence the use of the wording 'broad functional descriptions'.
(b) Paragraph 7(v) - states that there is delegation of the power to
"institute, defend, withdraw, participate in or settle any claims or legal
proceedings, civil or criminal." I note the content of the final section
of Paragraph 7, which states that claims or legal proceedings involving
Members are excluded from the delegation.
The letters received by yourself and your colleagues do not represent the
institution of proceedings, which would instead involve filing and issuing
claims via the County Court, or indeed the Magistrates' Court (depending
on whether the matter was civil or criminal).
Part of the function of the Head of Legal and Support Services/Director of
Democratic and Legal Services is to be the Council's most senior legal
officer, and to deal with any matters which fall within this wide remit.
Therefore the sending of pre-action letters falls squarely within the
functions of that post.
If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may now
apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The
Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information
Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9
5AF | Tel: 01625 545745 | Fax: 01625 524510 | Web: | www.ico.org.uk |
Deputy Monitoring Officer
Regulatory and Governance Manager
Democratic and Legal Services, Scarborough Borough Council
Dear Scarborough Borough Council,
Thank you for the belated internal review. I note from the recent reply from David Kitson:
"I note the content of the final section of Paragraph 7, which states that claims or legal proceedings involving Members are excluded from the delegation."
The original letter states that the Head/Director of Legal and Democratic Services (and Monitoring Officer) is writing on behalf of the Council, Officers and Members of Scarborough Borough Council.
You appear to be stating the opposite, that Lisa Dixon did not have the authority to send letters threatening legal action on behalf of elected Members, even though that is what actually occurred.
For avoidance of doubt, please can you succinctly confirm or deny that Lisa Dixon did not have the authority to send letters to myself and colleagues threatening legal action on behalf of elected members.
For further avoidance of doubt, please can you also succinctly confirm or deny that the decision to send the legal letters to myself and colleagues was a decision solely made by Officers of Scarborough Borough Council.
Please can you also confirm or deny that the decision to send the legal letters to myself and colleagues was not approved by any elected members of Scarborough Borough Council nor did any elected members have any input into that decision.
I would also like to remind you that under section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, any attempt to prevent or to block the disclosure of this information without good reason will result in a complaint to the Information Commissioner, which could result in the Council Officer responsible for preventing or blocking the information being brought before a Court by the Information Commissioner.
I feel that succinct and unequivocal answers to those questions would complete this FOI request.
This is a polite request to remind you that information is still needed to complete this FOI request. No doubt Mr Kitson will be responding to this in due course, but please could you set my expectations as to when this would be. I really don't want to make an unnecessary complaint to the ICO over the lack of response.
As there has been no contact from yourselves regarding the questions asked on 18th July 2013, please consider this a request for an internal review.
If you decide to divulge this information in the mean time, I think we can dispense with the need for an internal review.
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