Refusing to investigate formal complaints

The request was partially successful.

Dear North East Lincolnshire Council,

The council refuses to investigate a formal complaint (details below).

https://www.scribd.com/document/34900735...

It is obvious from the letter (HMCTS) that if the council did investigate the matter (properly) it would have to admit fault, even perverting the course of justice. The letter below reinforces this.

https://www.scribd.com/doc/310668603/Exh...

Please disclose the number of times the council has refused to investigate formal complaints and the reasons for doing so over the last three years.

Yours faithfully,

Ben Williams

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Sir / Madam

Thank you for your information request which has been allocated reference 5502_1718.

We consider that this request forms part of a concerted campaign against North East Lincolnshire Council intended to frustrate and challenge our ability to effectively administer and collect Council Tax and therefore determine that this request is vexatious. Your correspondence is intended to raise unfounded allegations against the Council, with no substance behind your allegations, or intention to obtain information from North East Lincolnshire Council.

Section 14 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act states that a public authority is not obliged to comply with a request for information if that request is vexatious.

On this basis, North East Lincolnshire Council will not be responding to this request.

If you disagree with the Council determining your request is vexatious you have the right to request an internal review by the Council. If following this you remain dissatisfied you may contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary arrangements.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer

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Dear PPD - FOI,

On what basis has the council determined my correspondence to be raising unfounded allegations against the Council, with no substance behind them?

Yours sincerely,

Ben Williams

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Sir / Madam

I refer you to the original response provided to you which details the reasoning and explains what you should do if you disagree.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer

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Dear North East Lincolnshire Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of North East Lincolnshire Council's handling of my FOI request 'Refusing to investigate formal complaints'.

I disagree with the Council determining my request to be vexatious on the grounds that it intends to challenge the authority's ability to effectively administer and collect Council Tax. The council would only be justified in stating this if it was exempt from prosecution for the consequences of its actions in maladministering Council Tax.

I also disagree with the Council determining my request to be vexatious on the basis that my correspondence intends to raise unfounded allegations against the Council, with no substance behind them.

How does the sample provided lead the council to determine that there is no substance behind what it considers to be allegations against the Council?

https://www.scribd.com/document/34900735...

https://www.scribd.com/doc/310668603/Exh...

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

Yours faithfully,

Ben Williams

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Sir / Madam

I am pleased to acknowledge your correspondence and wish to confirm that an Internal Review of the handling of your Information Request NELC/5502/1718 is to take place.

The Internal Review has been passed to the relevant department for processing and you can expect your response within the 20 working day limit. If it will take us longer than 20 working days to respond to you, we will inform you of this and provide you with the expected date for receiving a response.

Further information about how we will deal with your Freedom of Information requests is available on our website at: https://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council-infor....

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information or assistance quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer

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PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Sir / Madam 

Further to your request an Internal Review has taken place into North East
Lincolnshire Council's handling of your information
request NELC/5502/1718, concerning Council Tax and Business Rates.

I have reviewed the response provided to you and the handling of your
request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act and find:

o That your request was responded to within the statutory time of 20
working days;
o That you were informed whether or not the information you asked for
was held by North East Lincolnshire Council;
o That you were provided with the reasons why any information you had
asked for could not be supplied to you under the Freedom of
Information Act; and
o That your response provided you with your rights of appeal. 

I am therefore satisfied that the Council has acted in accordance with the
Freedom of Information Act in the handling of your request.

In the original response from North East Lincolnshire Council to your
request, dated 5^th June 2017, it is clearly stated that:

“We consider that this request forms part of a concerted campaign against
North East Lincolnshire Council intended to frustrate and challenge our
ability to effectively administer and collect Council Tax and therefore
determine that this request is vexatious.”

This clearly details the reasons why the request is considered to be
vexatious. Your request is also titled “refusing to investigate formal
complaints” which is an unfounded statement and based on interpretation.
Any concerns of this nature should be addressed through the appropriate
channels and directed to the Local Government Ombudsman should any
individual feel this is the case. I direct you to the findings of a recent
First-tier Tribunal regarding a challenge to a decision notice issued by
the Information Commissioner regarding the campaign we consider this to be
a part of. In this case it was stated “At some point, the persistence of
the Appellant in pursuing his grievance against the Council’s actions in
respect of Council Tax has become vexatious as a matter of law.”

Taking this into account I am wholly satisfied that the Council has acted
appropriately in deeming your request to be vexatious. It may be helpful
to you if I highlight the  guidance issued by the Information Commissioner
with regard to what you should, and should not, do when requesting
information under the Freedom of Information Act.

To ensure Freedom of Information is effective both for applicants in
making requests and receiving the information they require, and the
Council in its use of resources for handling and responding to requests,
we would refer you to the Information Commissioner’s website which
provides guidance on how to make requests under the Freedom of Information
Act.

 

Link to the guidance on the Information Commissioner’s website:
[1]https://ico.org.uk/for-the-public/offici...

 

The Information Commissioner’s website includes the following guidance on
what you should and should not do when making an information request:

 

What you should not do when making a request

 

·         Use offensive or threatening language.

·         Level unfounded accusations at North East Lincolnshire Council
or its staff.

·         Make personal attacks against employees.

·         Use FOI to reopen grievances which have already been fully
addressed by North East Lincolnshire Council, or subjected to independent
investigation with no evidence of wrongdoing being found.

·         Make assumptions about how North East Lincolnshire Council
organises its.

·         Bury your request in amongst lengthy correspondence on other
matters or underlying complaints.

·         Use requests as a way of ‘scoring points’ against North East
Lincolnshire Council.

·         Send ‘catch-all’ requests for information (such as ‘please
provide me with everything you hold about ‘x’) when you aren’t sure what
specific documents to ask for. If in doubt, try searching on
[2]www.nelincs.gov.uk or enquiring whether any indexes and file lists are
available. Alternatively, ask for some advice and assistance in framing
your request.

·         Submit frivolous or trivial requests; remember that processing
any information request involves some cost to the public purse.

·         Disrupt North East Lincolnshire Council by the sheer weight of
requests or the volume of information requested. Whether you are acting
alone or in concert with others, this is a clear misuse of the Act and an
abuse of your ‘right to know’.

·         Deliberately ‘fish’ for information by submitting very broad or
random requests in the hope it will catch something noteworthy or
otherwise useful. Requests should be directed towards obtaining
information on a particular issue, rather than relying on pot luck to see
if anything of interest is revealed.

·         Make repeat requests unless circumstances, or the information
itself, have changed to the extent that there are justifiable grounds to
ask for the information again.

 

When making your request you should

 

·         Include your name, address and other contact details in the
request.

·         Clearly state that you are making your request under the Freedom
of Information Act/Environmental Information Regulations.

·         Be as specific as possible about the information you want rather
than asking general questions. Try to include details such as dates and
names whenever you can. It may also assist in identifying the information
if you explain the purpose behind your request.

·         Re-read your request to check for any wording which is unclear
or open to interpretation.

·         Use straightforward, polite language; avoid basing your request
or question on assumptions or opinions, or mixing requests with complaints
or comments.

·         Give ample opportunity for any previous requests to be addressed
before submitting new ones.

·         Stay focused on the line of enquiry you are pursuing. Don’t let
your attention start to drift onto issues of minor relevance.

·         Think about whether making a request is the best way of
achieving what you want. If you have an underlying complaint then it may
be better to just take your complaint to the relevant ombudsman and let
them investigate.

·         Aim to be flexible if you are advised that the full request
cannot be met on cost grounds and you are asked to narrow it down. Try to
work with us to produce a streamlined version of the request which still
covers the core information that is most important to you.

 

If your request lacks a clear or serious purpose or if it is not focused
on acquiring recorded information held by the Council, then the Freedom of
Information is probably not an appropriate means through which to pursue
your concerns. You might do better to explore whether there are other more
suitable channels through which to take up your concerns.

I trust that this Internal Review answers your queries in relation to your
request, and clarifies that your request has been handled in accordance
with the Freedom of Information Act. 

If you remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of your request, or
the decision of the internal review you can request an independent review
by contacting the Information Commissioner's Office at Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Ian Hollingsworth

Information Governance and Complaints

 

 

 

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Davo38 left an annotation ()

Omg this is the same as mine atm same named clerk ect they are unreal how are they getting away with it this council want investigating seriously

Dear PPD - FOI,

You have directed me to the findings of a recent First-tier Tribunal decision and quoted from it the following:

“At some point, the persistence of the Appellant in pursuing his grievance against the Council’s actions in respect of Council Tax has become vexatious as a matter of law.”

However, I have found no record of it so I would appreciate you providing the case reference so I can look it up on the search facility

http://informationrights.decisions.tribu...

Yours sincerely,

Ben Williams

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Williams

Thank you for your information request which has been allocated reference number 6573_1718. I can confirm that the reference number of the decision referred to is EA/2017/0019.

If you believe that your request for information has not been handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to request an internal review by the Council. Please be clear about which elements of the Council’s response or handling of the request you are unhappy with, and would like the Council to address during the internal review process. If following this you are still dissatisfied you may contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary arrangements.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer

Closing In left an annotation ()

Tribunal's decision, 9 June 2017 (EA/2017/0019):

https://www.scribd.com/document/35084899...

Below is an Application for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal against the First-tier Tribunal's Decision (EA/2017/0019).

https://www.scribd.com/document/35309378...

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