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Statutory Duty to Consult Business Ratepayers

Gwen Swinburn made this Freedom of Information request to City of York Council

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Dear City of York Council,

I have raised the matter of the Council continually breaching section 65 of the 1992 Local Government Act, regarding business ratepayers consultation.

Having asked various organisations if they had been consulted on the draft budget and draft capital programme, they answered in the negative.

I raised this in several meetings, with Councillors, and finally advising the Monitoring Officer verbally that the business ratepayers had not been consulted on the draft budgets. As required by the legislation.
Like citizens they may be asked in the autumn what is important to them. That is not a consultation per the legislation, nothing like it.

Today I received this, unevidenced response apparently from the monitoring officer

On Fri, 14 Feb 2020 at 17:44,
Dear Ms Swinburn,

I can advise that the Director of Governance has confirmed the following regarding your recent questions.

1. Do you consider the Council has met its statutory duty to consult the business ratepayers on the draft budget and draft capital programme as required under Section 65 of the 1992 Local Government Act?

Yes I am satisfied

2. Secondly regarding the public sector equalities duty for this revenue and capital budget and the savings, are you confident the duty has or will be met?

For the purpose of financial strategy I am satisfied that the council has acknowledged it’s duties for public sector equalities, however I am mindful that the delivery of the various aspects of the strategy will require much more detailed and bespoke equality impact assessments.
—-
Accordingly please, in regard to 1) please will you evidence the consultation process that led the monitoring officer to assure herself the law had been obeyed.

Please provide all the recorded information on what consultations on the draft budget, draft cuts and draft capital programme were sent our to whom, when, what public notices were posted to the business community, what presentations and meetings were held and when on the draft budget, the cuts and the draft capital programme?

2. Regarding the second point, the bar is far higher than merely ‘acknowledging’ its public sector equalities duty. Please evidence first how the public sector equalities duty is ‘acknowledged’ and why individual assessments are not made prior to the five days of consultation where the full budget papers are published. See how NYCC does this in conjunction with its budget. Yet York Councillors & citizens are denied these. https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/equality-i...
3. Specifically regarding the increases in fees and charges, where are the impact assessments? These will be implemented on April 1.
4. Regarding the statement that ‘various parts of the financial strategy will need more detailed and bespoke equalities impact assessments’ . Which parts will need what and by when? Can a schedule be provided of which capital and revenue spending and cuts will benefit from equalities impact assessments, which will not. Since there is no indication ( and no history of such) can this be clarified ahead of budget Council?

Considering the full budget papers ( such as they are) were published only 5 working days before the budget Exec the window for consultation was quite limited
Yours faithfully,

Gwen

foi@york.gov.uk, City of York Council

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Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745 if you prefer to use a national rate number
Fax: 01625 524 510
Or email: [email address]<mailto:[email address]> (please include your telephone number in your email)

Regards
Customer Feedback Team

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Dear City of York Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of City of York Council's handling of my FOI request 'Statutory Duty to Consult Business Ratepayers'. You have missed the 16 March deadline

[ GIVE DETAILS ABOUT YOUR COMPLAINT HERE ]

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwen Swinburn

foi@york.gov.uk, City of York Council

Thank you for your email. Please note this is an automatically generated receipt to let you know we have received your email.

For information:

* The timescale for responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Environmental Information Regulation (EIR) requests is up to 20 working days. We will contact you promptly if we need you to clarify your request or an extension to complete a public interest test.

o The timescale for responding to requests for a review, for FOIA or EIR responses, is up to 20 working days. You are also able to contact the Information Commissioner, contact details below:

* The timescale for responding to your rights in relation to personal data eg: subject access to records (SAR) request, is up to 1 month. We will contact you promptly if we require further information from you, or an extension.

o The timescale for responding to requests for a review, of responses to your rights regarding personal data, is up to 1 month. You are also able to contact the Information Commissioner, contact details below:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745 if you prefer to use a national rate number
Fax: 01625 524 510
Or email: [email address]<mailto:[email address]> (please include your telephone number in your email)

Regards
Customer Feedback Team

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foi@york.gov.uk, City of York Council

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Dear Ms Swinburn,
 
Thank you for your correspondence about the way the Council is dealing
with your information request.  You are concerned that the Council has not
responded to your request within the statutory time scale.
 
On review, it appears that the Council has not provided you with a
response with the statutory time scale.  I apologise for this.
 
I have now asked the service area to respond to your request as a matter
of priority and within the next 20 working days, at the latest.
 
The Council has a robust monitoring system in place to help ensure time
scales are met.  Council Officers also work hard to ensure the Council
meets statutory obligations.  Unfortunately, on limited occasions, meeting
timescales is not possible.  When this happens, late responses are logged,
reported on,   and feed into performance reviews, which allow us to take
steps, where necessary, to improve our processes.
 
Once again, I apologise for the delay. 
 
If you remain dissatisfied you can now contact the Information
Commissioner, contact details below:
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745 if you prefer to use a
national rate number
Fax: 01625 524 510
Or email: [1][email address] (please include your telephone number)
Regards
 
Contact Point
t: 01904 554556 | e: [2][email address]
 
City of York Council  |  Customer Complaints & Feedback Team, Customer &
Corporate Services
West Offices | Station Rise | York YO1 6GA
[3]www.york.gov.uk | [4]facebook.com/cityofyork | [5]@CityofYork
 
 
 
 
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Dear City of York Council,

You have ignored this Foi since March - I will now send to the ICO . I have been very patient.

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

I am writing to request an internal review of City of York Council's handling of my FOI request 'Statutory Duty to Consult Business Ratepayers'.

[ GIVE DETAILS ABOUT YOUR COMPLAINT HERE ]

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwen Swinburn

foi@york.gov.uk, City of York Council

Thank you for your email. Please note this is an automatically generated receipt to let you know we have received your email.

As we are all facing unprecedented challenges during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, please be aware that we may take longer to respond to your request.

For information:
* The timescale for responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Environmental Information Regulation (EIR) requests is up to 20 working days. We will contact you promptly if we need you to clarify your request or an extension to complete a public interest test.

* The timescale for responding to requests for a review, for FOIA or EIR responses, is up to 20 working days. You are also able to contact the Information Commissioner, contact details below:

* The timescale for responding to your rights in relation to personal data eg: subject access to records (SAR) request, is up to 1 month. We will contact you promptly if we require further information from you, or an extension.

* The timescale for responding to requests for a review, of responses to your rights regarding personal data, is up to 1 month. You are also able to contact the Information Commissioner, contact details below:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745 if you prefer to use a national rate number
Fax: 01625 524 510
Or email: [email address]<mailto:[email address]> (please include your telephone number in your email)

Regards
Information governance, complaints and feedback team

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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Gwen Swinburn left an annotation ()

The Council is in further difficulty here.. ICO slapped a notice on them to reply or risk going to the high court.
Let’s not forget throughout the budget process for years Floyd ( of public interest report infamy) has repeatedly never consulted on the draft budget .. not least because he never publishes it until 5 days before Budget Exec .. which is a few days from Budget Council .. so not even the opposition sees the draft budget before it is published. Yet it is really only me that has been fighting this. Well run authorities publish full draft budgets before Christmas. Let’s not forget the capital programme goes in with no consultation.. millions of pounds, decided on a paragraph .. once in the capital programme it’s decided,

foi@york.gov.uk, City of York Council

3 Attachments

Dear Ms Swinburn,
 
Please see below the response to your enquiry under the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA).
 
The council acknowledges there has been substantial delay in responding,
please accept our sincere apologies.
 

 1. Regarding the budget decisions last year, please provide for each of
these three categories the equalities impact assessments, and when
they were presented to Members.

 
a) Budget cuts
b) New Revenue Spending
c) New Capital Spending
 

 2. Regarding the budget decisions last year, please provide a schedule of
decisions made where impact assessments were not conducted.

 

 3. Regarding the 2 sides impact assessment provided with the budget
papers last year, as we are told this is a ‘living’ document; please
provide the current version for last year’s budget.

 

 4. Regarding the 2019/20 fees and charges changes, please provide a
specific list of equalities impact assessments undertaken, their
dates, when they were presented to members and how they impacted upon
the Cllr decision making process?

 

 5. Please provide a link to all guidance used regarding the public sector
equalities duty.

 
For all above questions relating to last years budget the council
considers this information is exempt from disclosure under section 21 of
the FOIA as it is considered reasonably accessible to you by other means,
as it’s already been provided to you in previous correspondence or is
easily accessible on the council’s website.
 
However, to assist with your enquiry please see insert below for the
information provided to you in previous correspondence.
 
“As outlined by the Section 151 Officer at the Executive meeting, and
available to view on the webcast, many of the individual savings being
considered are the full year effect of previously agreed actions that were
implemented some time ago and full community impact assessments were
completed at the time.  For example, the customer transport saving is as a
result of a decision made by Executive in April 2017 that included a full
impact assessment.  You can view the report and annexes here:
[1]http://modgov.york.gov.uk/ieDecisionDeta...
Therefore, in line with the legislation and best practice, members have
been made aware of, and have taken into account, the impact prior to
making any decisions.
 
As these savings are not new, and have already been subject to a separate
decision making process, there is no need to include the impact
assessments again.  In addition, it should be noted that a number of the
savings do not have any impact as they relate to treasury management or
internal restructuring.  Of the total £4.3m savings presented to
Executive, £1.5m relate to treasury and asset management and a further
£444k relate to internal restructuring. A further £1.6m result from
decisions already made in previous years. All these decisions were made
with full knowledge and consideration of any equalities impact.
 
The report also notes that individual detailed impact assessments will be
completed as and when required. These are published on the council’s
website. As noted in the parliamentary brief you shared, the law does not
require public authorities to carry out impact assessments and the current
legal position is that impact assessments are one way, but not the only
way, for a public authority to demonstrate compliance with equalities
legislation.  As we complete a full impact analysis of individual
proposals and in addition consider the overall cumulative impact of budget
proposals (as set out in annex 7 to the report) the council is fully
compliant with the required legislation.
 
The council has a robust financial planning and budgeting process, as
evidenced by our consistent good financial performance in delivering a
balanced budget and a small under spend each year.  Executive members are
involved in the shaping the budget proposals throughout the year and are
made fully aware of the impacts and risks associated with each saving
being considered.  All budget savings are routinely monitored by both the
finance team and the senior management teams to ensure savings are
delivered in line with the approved budget and any variations are reported
to Executive and scrutiny through the quarterly finance and performance
reports.
 
The consultation process undertaken, including how we met our statutory
requirement to consult with businesses, is fully explained in the
Executive report and no further responses were received. As you can also
appreciate the section 151 officer of the Council cannot recommend a
budget to Council which is not legal or balanced.” 
 
To conduct a search of the council’s Decision Register see link below:
[2]http://modgov.york.gov.uk/mgDelegatedDec...
 
To see statement of accounts from previous years see link below:
[3]https://www.york.gov.uk/downloads/downlo...
 

 6. Regarding last year’s budget, does the Monitoring Officer accept the
Council met its duties in every regard? If not where were the
shortcomings?

 
Although this is a question rather than a request under the FOIA for
recorded information, I can advise that the Monitoring Officer was not
responsible for issues related to last years budget and therefore it is
not appropriate for her to comment on matters related to this. Further to
this, I refer you to the correspondence provided previously.
 

 7. The evidence of the consultation process that led the monitoring
officer to assure herself the law to consult the business ratepayers
on the draft budget and draft capital programme as required under
Section 65 of the 1992 Local Government Act, had been obeyed.

 
This information is not held in a recorded format. However, to assist with
your enquiry I can advise that the Monitoring Officer sought verbal
assurance from the Section 151 officer and was assured that the
consultation process had been completed appropriately. Please see
information provided for the points below for details of the consultation
process.
 

 8. For the consultations on the draft budget, draft cuts and draft
capital programme, please provide all information sent out

 

 a. A list of who sent to

 
I confirm that we hold the information you are seeking. However, the names
of the online survey participants are classed as their personal data,
which is exempt from disclosure under Section 40 of the Freedom of
Information Act (the FOIA).  
 
We can only disclose personal data in response to a FOIA enquiry, which is
a disclosure into the public realm, if it would be fair, lawful and meet
the rules set out in the Data Protection Act (the DPA).
 
In this case, we consider that disclosure would lead to the identification
of individuals and be a breach of the DPA. It would be unfair to the
individuals concerned and not be in their reasonable expectations to have
their personal data disclosed into the public realm.  We also consider
their privacy rights outweigh any legitimate public interest in disclosure
in this case.
 

 b. When it was sent

 
The online Budget Consultation 2020/21 opened on 15/11/2019 and closed on
31/12/2019.
 

 c. What public notices were posted to the business community

 
During the consultation, we asked residents and businesses for their views
through a range of channels, including:

* an online survey
* discussion boards placed across the city

 
A short version of the survey was sent to households inside the Our City
Publication, with a closing date of 12/01/2020. A total of 825 residents
and businesses participated.
 
Please see attached copy of the survey and ‘Our City’ brochure.
 
 

 d. What presentations and meetings were held and when

 
No presentation or meetings were held for the consultation; please see
above details of how consultation was conducted.
 
However, I can confirm that Executive Members Decision Sessions were held
for each portfolio and this information is held, but is exempt from
disclosure under section 21 of the FOIA as it is considered reasonably
accessible to you by other means.
 
You can locate the information at:
[4]https://www.york.gov.uk/webcasts-1/webca...
 

 9. Please evidence how the public sector equalities duty for the revenue
and capital budget and the savings is ‘acknowledged’

 
As above in points 1-5 the public report contained an overarching
equalities impact assessments and that individual equalities impact
assessments are carried for savings projects as and when required. 
 
To assist with your enquiry, the consultation results and the raw data,
including previous years, can be found on the York Open Data platform:
[5]https://data.yorkopendata.org/dataset/bu...
 

10. Please evidence why individual assessments are not made prior to the
five days of consultation where the full budget papers are published.

 
This information is not held in a recorded format. However, for clarity
see above in questions 1-5:
‘The report also notes that individual detailed impact assessments will be
completed as and when required.’
 
Also cited above:
‘As noted in the parliamentary brief you shared, the law does not require
public authorities to carry out impact assessments and the current legal
position is that impact assessments are one way, but not the only way, for
a public authority to demonstrate compliance with equalities legislation.’
 
‘We complete a full impact analysis of individual proposals and in
addition consider the overall cumulative impact of budget proposals (as
set out in annex 7 to the report) the council is fully compliant with the
required legislation.’
 

11. Specifically regarding the increases in fees and charges, where are
the impact assessments?

 
See above in question 10.
 

12. Regarding the statement that ‘various parts of the financial strategy
will need more detailed and bespoke equalities impact assessments’.
Which parts will need what and by when? Can a schedule be provided of
which capital and revenue spending and cuts will benefit from
equalities impact assessments, which will not.  Since there is no
indication (and no history of such) can this be clarified ahead of
budget Council?

 
This information is not held, because a schedule was not created and
whether an equality impact assessment is required, would be dependent upon
the outcome of the budget decision.
 
If you are dissatisfied with our response you have the right to ask for an
independent review of how your enquiry was handled and responded to. This
can be done by contacting us at [6][City of York Council request email] within 40 working days
of receiving your response, stating your reason(s) why you are
dissatisfied.
 
If you remain dissatisfied following the internal review response you can
contact the Information Commissioner, contact details below:
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745 if you prefer to use a
national rate number
Fax: 01625 524 510
Or email: [7][email address] (please include your telephone number)
 
Yours sincerely,
 
 
Contact Point
t: 01904 554556 | e: [8][email address]
 
City of York Council  |  Customer Complaints & Feedback Team, Customer &
Corporate Services
West Offices | Station Rise | York YO1 6GA
[9]www.york.gov.uk | [10]facebook.com/cityofyork | [11]@CityofYork
 
 
 
 
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Help protect the environment! - please don't print this email unless you
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