LGO investigations.

Trevor R Nunn made this Freedom of Information request to Coventry City Council

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

The request was successful.

Dear Sir or Madam,

During the last five years how many times has the Local Government Ombudsman (as a result of investigating a complaint against Coventry City Council) brought to the attention of the council the fact that a member of Coventry City Council staff had misled them, lied to them or done anything else to hinder their investigation. If they have what disciplinary action was taken against the individual(s) concerned by the council.

Yours faithfully,

Trevor R Nunn

Harrison, Iain, Coventry City Council

Dear Mr Nunn

Thank you for your request for information about Local Government
Ombudsman Investigations, which falls under the Freedom of Information
Act 2000.

The Council want to be as open as possible in answering requests, and to
help people obtain the information they are looking for. Unfortunately,
in this case the amount of information you have requested is very
substantial. Gathering it together would therefore be likely to involve
a significant cost and diversion of resources from the Coventry City
Council's other work.

This could mean that we might have to charge you for the work involved
or even have to refuse the request under the exemptions in the Freedom
of Information Act 2000 covering requests that are manifestly
unreasonable or formulated in too general a manner.

The best way that we can help you is therefore to ask you to consider
whether you could narrow down your request to focus on the specific area
you are interested in. Local Government Ombudsman investigations and any
settlements are not characterised in the way you describe, so to help
the Council identify the actual information you require, please can you
be more specific about the areas you are interested in.

On receipt of your narrowed down request I will assess your request and
provide the information if possible. The working days taken for you to
respond will be added to the existing deadline.

If you are unable or unwilling to narrow down your request the Council
will, of course, consider it in accordance with our obligations under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000. However we wanted to give you an
opportunity to reconsider your request and describe more precisely the
information you wish to have.

If you have any other issues relating to this request please do not
hesitate to contact me.

Please let me know how you would like us to proceed.

Yours sincerely

Iain Harrison
Information Governance Officer
Contracts & Governance Team,
Customer & Workforce Services,
Coventry City Council
Council House,
Earl Street
Coventry, CV1 5RR

Telephone No: 024 7683 3305
Fax No: 024 7683 3395

www.coventry.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Dear Sir or Madam,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Coventry City Council's handling of my FOI request 'LGO investigations.'.

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

Yours faithfully,

Trevor R Nunn

Hadzic, Merima, Coventry City Council

1 Attachment

  • Attachment

    RE Freedom of Information request LGO investigations our ref 08 12137547..txt

    3K Download View as HTML

Dear Mr Nunn

In response to your e-mail below please see the attached e-mail that my
collegue Iain Harrison sent to you on 20th January 2009. Where
clarification is requested, as was the case here, Coventry City
Council's approach is to place a request on hold until such time as
clarification is received from the requetser. If the requester fails to
narrow and/or clarify within 90 calendar days then the request is closed
on our system.

The Information Governance Team did not receive any further
communication from yourself on this matter and therefore closed it
accordingly.

If you feel that there is some other way in which the Council can assist
you with your request please let us know and we will consider it.

Regards
Merima

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Dear Hadzic, Merima,

Before I submit a complaint to the Information Commissioner can you confirm that your previous email represents a formal internal review of my freedom of information request.

Yours sincerely,

Trevor R Nunn

nutty (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Of course it doesn't. They were waiting for clarification from you. Which was never sent.

Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

Nutty

I submitted a perfectly valid FOI request and no clarification is, or was, necessary. Neither does my request need to be narrowed down. They have not not supplied the information requested or a valid reason (FOI exemption) for refusing my request hence my request for an internal review. The information I seek is available from their monitoring officer so there is no need to search every file. I should not have to tell them what constitutes a valid FOI response nor tell them how to do their job.

nutty (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

So why didn't you tell them that back in January then?

Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

Nutty, what part of 'I should not have to tell them what constitutes a valid FOI response nor tell them how to do their job' don't you understand?

nutty (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Er ... the part where you haven't actually written that in this correspondence.

T Thomas left an annotation ()

Nutty

Are you blind?

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/lg...

Or do you get a buzz out of adding irrelevant comment to other peoples Freedom of Information requests or finding mistakes in other peoples Freedom of Information requests?

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/fo...

Alex Skene left an annotation ()

To all commenters on this thread: please follow the moderation rules, and be nice to each other, otherwise annotations will be removed without warning.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/about...

Please contact the WDTK team via the Help link if you have any questions about this.

My advice on this FOI request is you usually get good results when you engage in dialogue with an authority to discuss exactly what is required. If asked for clarification (as allowed under FOI Act s.1(3)), it is only polite to provide it.

Kind regards
Alex - WhatDoTheyKnow volunteer

Hadzic, Merima, Coventry City Council

Dear Mr Nunn

Thank you for your email. The Council apologies to you for any confusion
you may have been caused, but would remind you of the following points.

The Council want to be as open as possible in answering requests and to
help people obtain the information they are looking for.

Part of the process it employs to do this involves asking requestors to
clarify what information they want where requested information is
unclear or does not reflect the way the Council records information as
part of its processes.

This is a lawfully compliant approach allowed for by Section 1 (3) of
the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

This is what the Council attempted to do in it's email of 20th January
2009, informing you that the Council does not record information in the
way your request states and asking you for clarification of your
requirements.

The Council did not receive a response from you in this matter and
accordingly closed the request in June 2009.

The Council will be glad to discuss your requirements further with you
if you feel that there is some other way in which we can assist you with
your information requirements then please let me know.

Regards
Merima

Merima Hadzic
Information Governance Assistant
Contracts & Governance Team,
Customer & Workforce Services,
Coventry City Council
Council House,
Earl Street
Coventry, CV1 5RR

Telephone No: 024 7683 2565
Fax No: 024 7683 3395

www.coventry.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Dear Hadzic, Merima,

Thanks for your response. The information I seek is clearly set out in my original request. No clarification was necessary and I view (and still view)your request for clarification as an excuse to delay the process, which it has done. As you should be aware your monitoring officer should have the information at hand and searching your files is not necessary. Therefore, please supply the information originally requested without any further delay, excuse, asking for unnecessary clarification or asking me to refine my request.

I totally reject your assertion that the information I requested was unclear or didn't reflect the way the Council records information as part of its processes. The monitoring officer has a statutory duty to bring these matters to the attention of the council and they should have the information at hand.

Yours sincerely,

Trevor R Nunn

Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

I would normally agree with Alex regarding his suggestion to provide clarification if asked for it

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/lg...

However, no clarification was necessary and there is more to this than meets the eye. I initially sought this information from the Local Government Ombudsman

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ly...

They refused to supply the information using an exemption specific to them. This left me with no option but to submit a request to every single council. Many councils responded positively and supplied the information.

Unfortunately a few councils wrongly sought the advice of the LGO before responding and subsequently a larger group of councils started using an identical (or very similar) excuse for not supplying the information requested or at least substantially delaying the process. (I may submit further FOI requests to identify the total number of councils who sought advice from the LGO before considering my FOI request.)

In addition, the ICO has already rejected a similar excuse for not providing the information requested.

Every council should have this information to hand because their monitoring officer is under a statutory and constitutional duty to bring this information to their attention. In addition, this information should already be publicly available and councils should not be supporting the LGO in trying to avoid the information becoming public knowledge.

I am very close to completing my task and will be publishing the full story on my blog.

http://lgowatcher.blogspot.com/

T Thomas left an annotation ()

Section 1(3) quoted by Alex above states

Where a public authority—

(a) reasonably requires further information in order to identify and locate the information requested.

In this case the exemption does not apply because in their own words the council had identified what information was requested and where it was located.

T Thomas left an annotation ()

In addition to my previous comment, the following statement is extracted from the councils initial reply. Proving categorically they new at that time what information was being requested and where it was.

'Unfortunately, in this case the amount of information you have requested is very substantial'.

Anne Hide left an annotation ()

This is an interesting case and it will be interesting to see how the ICO eventually decides the case. It illustrates the difficulty people have in extracting information from public authorities. The council's initial refusal was clearly based on time and costs and not on the difficulty of identifying what was requested or where the information was. They should have used, but didn't, the cost exemption to support their initial refusal to supply the information as requested.

To later rely on Section 1(3) is obviously a last minute attempt to extricate themselves for not complying with the FOI Act in the first place.

Unfortunately they have shot themselves in the foot, regarding Section 1(3), by initially stating they knew what information was being requested and where it was.

As far as I am concerned the council did not supply the information requested or a valid exemption, as a result they were and still are in breach of the FOI Act.

Interesting times ahead. Will the ICO penalise the requester for not pointing out the councils breaches earlier? If they do it will mean every requester will have to know the FOI Act inside out and help the council stay within the rules or risk being penalised by the ICO.

iain left an annotation ()

Coventry Council did the same on my request. Asked for clarification ,then on the next e-mail , basically answered their own question.
They also pointed out how much it would cost to collate the information, I wonder how much it costs for their delaying/time wasting tactics?
I hope the OP goes all the way with this one, at least CCC will maybe realise this is to be taken with the utmost seriousness.

Dear Hadzic, Merima,

Final Warning:

You have 7 days in which to either carry out a proper internal review my FOI request, give me the information requested or a valid exemption under the FOI act. If neither is forthcoming within the next 7 days I will submit a complaints to the Information Commissioner.

You should be aware that your own policies cannot over rule the law and that the exemption you have already (belatedly) quoted, section 1(3), can't be used because you had previously acknowledged knowing what information I want and where it is.

Yours sincerely,

Trevor R Nunn

Harrison, Iain, Coventry City Council

Dear Mr Nunn

The Council has reviewed its handling of your request for information
regarding Local Government Ombudsman investigations. It is handling this
matter as a complaint under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I have reviewed and summarised events that have occurred as follows.

Original Request 08^th January 2009

During the last five years how many times has the Local Government
Ombudsman (as a result of investigating a complaint against Coventry City
Council) brought to the attention of the council the fact that a member of
Coventry City Council staff had misled them, lied to them or done anything
else to hinder their investigation. If they have what disciplinary action
was taken against the individual(s) concerned by the Council.

Clarity 20^th January 2009

The Council asked you to clarify this request in an email sent to you on
20^th January 2009. The Council placed your request on hold when it
requested clarification in January.

It did not receive a response from you in this matter and accordingly
closed the request in June 2009.

Request for a Internal Review 13^th July 2009

The Council responded to you on the 14^th July 2009, explaining the above
events.

You responded to this on the 14^th July and the Council duly responded to
you on the 17^th July reiterating that the Council does not record
information in the way your request states and asked you for further
clarification of your requirements.

It was explained that this approach is part of the process the Council
employs to assist and advise requesters and involves asking them to
clarify what information they want where requested information is unclear
or does not reflect the way the Council records information as part of its
processes.

You responded again on 17^th July as follows:

Thanks for your response. The information I seek is clearly set out in my
original request. No clarification was necessary and I view and still
view) your request for clarification as an excuse to delay the process,
which it has done.

As you should be aware your monitoring officer should have the information
at hand and searching your files is not necessary. Therefore, please
supply the information originally requested without any further delay,
excuse, asking for unnecessary clarification or asking me to refine my
request.

I totally reject your assertion that the information I requested was
unclear or didn't reflect the way the Council records information as part
of its processes. The monitoring officer has a statutory duty to bring
these matters to the attention of the council and they should have the
information at hand.

As the Council has explained, requesting clarification is a lawfully
compliant approach allowed for by Section 1 (3) of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.

The Council does not consider that it is "an excuse to delay the process"
as you assert.

Further to the above, the Council reiterates that the information
requested is not recorded by the Council in this manner. Further
consultations with the Council's Legal Services have confirmed that no
information of this type is held by the Council's Monitoring Officer (Head
of Legal Services).

To provide further information to assist you, Local Government Ombudsman
decisions are logged corporately by the Council and there are a limited
number of categories of decision type.

Where there has been a finding of maladministration or local settlement
the nature of the settlement is logged as well. This could include whether
a payment has been made, or an agreement to review procedures for example.

Records are maintained corporately for current year 2009/10 and 3 previous
years.

No maladministration or local settlement has included any reference of the
type you describe and as to whether there has been any sort of criticism
of a member of staff at any point in the complaint investigation is not
specifically recorded.

This is why the Council asked you to refine your request.

It might be worth you referring to the Local Government Ombudsman web page
where you can view the Ombudsman's Annual Review 2009 (previously this was
known as the Annual Letter) which summarises the Council's performance and
comments on the settlements.

You can find this and the Reviews for 2008 and 2007 on line at:

[1]www.lgo.org.uk

The above represents the Council's position in this matter. Your complaint
regarding the handling of your request is not upheld in this instance.

Please be advised that the Council has further provisions in place to
allow you to comment or complain about outcomes. You can write to:

FREEPOST-RRBR-LXAL-EKYL
Coventry City Council
Coventry
CV1 2PW

FREEPHONE: 0800 269851
Minicom: 024 7683 4343

Please also be advised that if you are still dissatisfied with the outcome
of your complaint for the Freedom of Information Act 2000, you have the
right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision.
The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner's Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely

Iain Harrison
Information Governance Officer
Contracts & Governance Team,
Customer & Workforce Services,
Coventry City Council
Council House,
Earl Street
Coventry, CV1 5RR

Telephone No: 024 7683 3305
Fax No: 024 7683 3395

[2]www.coventry.gov.uk

This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are confidential and are
intended solely for the use of the addressee. If you have received this
e-mail in error, you are requested to contact the sender

All e-mails are monitored by Coventry City Council IT Security, using
M@ilMeter and Star Filtering Services.

The views contained in this e-mail are those of the author and not
necessarily those of Coventry City Council.

show quoted sections

Dear Harrison, Iain,

Thank you for the internal review. Complaint will be with the ICO later today.

Yours sincerely,

Trevor R Nunn

Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

Awaiting a decision from the ICO.

Anne Hide left an annotation ()

This gets more and more interesting. The council have now supplied some of the information that was originally requested even after stating that they didn't understand what information was being requested Section 1(3). Talk about shooting themselves in the foot.

"No maladministration or local settlement has included any reference of the type you describe and as to whether there has been any sort of criticism of a member of staff at any point in the complaint investigation is not specifically recorded."

Their monitoring officer is under a statutory and constitutional obligation to bring this sort of thing to the attention of the council. To suggest that the council does not specifically record this information is an admission that they are in breach of a statutory and constitutional obligation.

Ignoring the FOI Act their own written constitution states

2.11.3.2 Ensuring Lawfulness and fairness of decision making – After consulting with the Head of Paid Service and Chief Finance Officer, the Monitoring Officer will report to the full Council or to the Cabinet in relation to an executive function if he or she considers that any proposal, decision or omission would give rise to unlawfulness or if any decision or omission has given rise to maladministration.

2.11.3.8 Providing Advice – The Monitoring Officer will provide advice on the scope of powers and authority to take decisions, maladministration, financial impropriety, probity and budget and policy framework issues to all Councillors.

Furthermore,

2.11.3.6 Proper Officer for Access to Information – The Monitoring Officer will ensure that the Access to Information Procedure Rules are complied with and all
relevant decisions, together with the reasons for those decisions and relevant officer reports and background papers are made publicly available as soon as possible.

Unless of course their monitoring officer doesn't think lying to or misleading an Ombudsman represents maladministration!

Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

I submitted this FOI request to every English Council. I have now collated the results and the full story can be read here

http://ombudsmanwatchers.org.uk/evidence...

Hadzic, Merima, Coventry City Council

Dear Mr Nunn

Attached is a further response regarding your complaint to the Information
Commissioner's Office.

Regards
Merima

Merima Hadzic
Information Governance Assistant
Contracts & Governance Team,
Customer & Workforce Services,
Coventry City Council
Council House,
Earl Street
Coventry, CV1 5RR

Telephone No: 024 7683 2565
Fax No: 024 7683 3395

[1]www.coventry.gov.uk

This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are confidential and are
intended solely for the use of the addressee. If you have received this
e-mail in error, you are requested to contact the sender

All e-mails are monitored by Coventry City Council IT Security, using
M@ilMeter and Star Filtering Services.

The views contained in this e-mail are those of the author and not
necessarily those of Coventry City Council.

show quoted sections

Dear Hadzic, Merima,

Thanks for the notification but I can find no attachment.

Yours sincerely,

Trevor R Nunn

Hadzic, Merima, Coventry City Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Nunn

Please accept my sincere apologies for not attaching the document in the
e-mail below.

Regards
Merima

show quoted sections

Trevor R Nunn left an annotation ()

Why force me to complain to the ICO in order to extract the information? Why didn't they say it has never happened so they don't hold any information about the issue in the first place?