Suffolk County Council – closure of the Lowestoft branch of the Suffolk Record Office

Mr MacDonald made this Freedom of Information request to Suffolk County Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Suffolk County Council

I am writing to make an open government request for all the information to which I am entitled under the Freedom of Information Act, 2000.

Thereby, please send me copies of all documentation used to inform and support Suffolk County Council's decision (first publicised on the 10 January 2018) both to close the Lowestoft branch of the Suffolk Record Office and to replace it with an unmanned 'Access Point'. This to include any statistical or financial data – together with any analysis or breakdown of such data so generated to aid in its interpretation; the documentation which records (for the offical record) the making of this decision, and all such other relevant information.

I would like for the above information to be provided to me in electronic format at the email address given.

If this request is too wide or unclear, I would be grateful if you could contact me. As I understand that under the Act you are required to advise and assist requesters. If any of this information is already in the public domain, please can you direct me to it, with page references and URLs if necessary.

I understand that you are required to respond to my request within the 20 working days after you receive this letter. I would be grateful if you could confirm in writing that you have received this request.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully

Mr MacDonald

Freedom of Information, Suffolk County Council

INFORMATION REQUEST – ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Thank you for your request, here is your reference number 15847. Please quote this in any future correspondence you may have with us.

We will process your request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 as appropriate. We aim to answer your request within 20 working days from the date we received it.

While no charges are made for the submission of requests, the council is entitled to apply reasonable costs for disbursements (i.e. photocopying, postage etc).  Where such costs are under £5.00 the council is pleased to make no charge, however, if costs exceed that limit then these additional costs are payable to the council.  Where charges will apply proper notice will be given to you prior to the information being released.  For more information on charges please use the following link to our website: http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/about/freedom-...

If you have any queries about this request do not hesitate to contact us.  Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Yours sincerely,
Becky

FOI Lead Officer
Performance and Information Management
Suffolk County Council
Constantine House
Constantine Road
Ipswich
IP1 2DH

Tel: 01473 265960
Fax: 01473 216843
Email: [email address]
Web: www.suffolk.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Freedom of Information, Suffolk County Council

3 Attachments

INFORMATION REQUEST RESPONSE

Thank you for your request for information, reference number 15847. Please quote this in any future correspondence you may have with us.

Please find attached a copy of our response to the information you requested.

Most information supplied by Suffolk County Council will have been produced within the Council and will continue to be protected by copyright.  You are free to use it for your own purposes, including for private study and non-commercial research, and for any other purpose authorised by an exception in current copyright law.  Documents (except photographs) can be also used in the UK without requiring permission for the purposes of news reporting.  Any other reuse, for example commercial publication, would require the permission of the copyright holder.

If the information you have been sent includes a copyright statement, you must not alter or remove this statement.  For information about re-using copyright see the Office of Public Sector Information website at www.opsi.gov.uk.  The copyright in some documents may rest with a third party.  For information about obtaining permission from a third party see the Intellectual Property Office’s website at www.ipo.gov.uk.

If you are dissatisfied with the way your request has been handled, you have the right to ask for an internal review.  Under Regulation 11(2), internal review requests should be submitted within 40 working days of the date of this letter and should be sent to: Information Management Services, Constantine House, Constantine Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 2DH or, alternatively, by email at [email address].

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, 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,
Becky

Performance and Information Management
Suffolk County Council
Constantine House
Constantine Road
Ipswich
IP1 2DH

Tel:     01473 265960
Fax:    01473 216843
Email: [email address]

show quoted sections

Dear Suffolk County Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Suffolk County Council's handling of my FOI request 'Suffolk County Council – closure of the Lowestoft branch of the Suffolk Record Office' (your ref. 15847), as you have not supplied any 'documentation which records (for the official record) the making of the decision [to close Lowestoft Record Office]'.
Your response offers only URL links to a number of the Council's documents; and as the latest of these is for a Cabinet meeting held on the 24 January 2017, they cannot offer any record of the decision to close the office made later that year in November 2017. Therefore, I request this information now be sent to me.
If no such information is found to exist, then I would be grateful if you could fully explain why that is so, and supply the full details behind the sequence of events that gave authority to those who ultimately made the decision late last year.

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

Mr MacDonald

Freedom of Information, Suffolk County Council

INFORMATION REQUEST – ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Thank you for your request, here is your reference number 15847. Please quote this in any future correspondence you may have with us.

We will process your request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 as appropriate. We aim to answer your request within 20 working days from the date we received it.

While no charges are made for the submission of requests, the council is entitled to apply reasonable costs for disbursements (i.e. photocopying, postage etc).  Where such costs are under £5.00 the council is pleased to make no charge, however, if costs exceed that limit then these additional costs are payable to the council.  Where charges will apply proper notice will be given to you prior to the information being released.  For more information on charges please use the following link to our website: http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/about/freedom-...

If you have any queries about this request do not hesitate to contact us.  Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Yours sincerely,
Becky

FOI Lead Officer
Performance and Information Management
Suffolk County Council
Constantine House
Constantine Road
Ipswich
IP1 2DH

Tel: 01473 265960
Fax: 01473 216843
Email: [email address]
Web: www.suffolk.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Freedom of Information, Suffolk County Council

Dear Mr MacDonald

Please ignore the previous email sent to you in acknowledgement of your internal review.

We are sorry that you are unhappy with the response to your request and can confirm that an internal review will now be carried out.

Kind regards

Performance and Information Management
Suffolk County Council
Constantine House
Constantine Road
Ipswich
IP1 2DH

Tel: 01473 265960
Fax: 01473 216843
Email: [email address]
Web: www.suffolk.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Freedom of Information, Suffolk County Council

2 Attachments

Dear Mr MacDonald

Thank you for your correspondence on 22 February 2018 where you requested an Internal Review following your request for information about 15847.

Your concerns were:

“I am writing to request an internal review of Suffolk County Council's handling of my FOI request 'Suffolk County Council – closure of the Lowestoft branch of the Suffolk Record Office' (your ref. 15847), as you have not supplied any 'documentation which records (for the official record) the making of the decision [to close Lowestoft Record Office]'.
Your response offers only URL links to a number of the Council's documents; and as the latest of these is for a Cabinet meeting held on the 24 January 2017, they cannot offer any record of the decision to close the office made later that year in November 2017. Therefore, I request this information now be sent to me.
If no such information is found to exist, then I would be grateful if you could fully explain why that is so, and supply the full details behind the sequence of events that gave authority to those who ultimately made the decision late last year.”

Having now conducted a formal review of your request, I can confirm that our response to your request (ref 15847) is upheld for the reasons below supplied by the Suffolk Record Office:

The FOI question was a very open one. This resulted in an initial answer which was also very open and attempted to put the decision in context i.e. the process of finding a solution to the long-term sustainability of SRO which has been ongoing since 2010.

The issue has been explored with The National Archives (TNA), East of England Regional Archive Council, partners, stakeholders, depositors, and users and in a variety of Cabinet and Scrutiny papers from 2011-2015 which discussed the issues including changing the service at Lowestoft by closing the branch completely and moving the archive collections in to a proposed new Heritage Centre in Stowmarket, moving the collections to a new building in Ipswich and transforming the service in to an Access Point or Hub, and new acquisitions only going to a new heritage facility, with the possibility of further collections moving at a later date.

In short the announcement of 10 Jan 2018 should be seen in the context of a long journey to find holistic, efficient, more sustainable ways to care for collections and deliver record office services across the county for the next 20 years plus and to balance the budget.

The list of Cabinet papers was given to show this journey, these indicate/imply that some change might be coming for the service in Lowestoft even if no change was expected imminently in 2015.

The Cabinet decision in July 2015 which gave delegated authority to progress the development of Suffolk Record Office facilities to the Director of Adult and Community Services in consultation with the Cabinet Member. Organisational changes have since moved responsibility to the Assistant Director (Strategic Development, Growth, Highways and Infrastructure). Therefore in November 2017, the decision to change the archive service at Lowestoft from a full service to an unmanned Access Point was taken by Sue Roper, Assistant Director (Strategic Development, Growth, Highways and Infrastructure) in consultation with Councillor Tony Goldson, Cabinet Member for Health, under whose jurisdiction the Suffolk Record Office rests. There is no time limit on delegations made by Cabinet unless specifically recorded.

While in July 2015 the Cabinet Member for Communities said that there were no anticipated changes in the Lowestoft Record Office presence, it has since become apparent that the current storage facilities do not meet the Government’s 21st Century collection care standards. Within legislation there is a requirement on the Council ‘to make proper arrangements with respect to any documents which belong to or are in the custody of the council or any of its officers’. Therefore it is quite proper, and therefore within officer delegations, that the decision to close the current facility was taken in order to comply with the legislation. This decision could have been taken whether or not the delegations from Cabinet were established in July 2015.

Cabinet paper of 24 Jan 2017 relating to the Budget were also included to put the decision in context - Agenda item 9 Appendix C – Annex D ACS4 confirmed the 2017/18 savings discussed at Scrutiny for £280k in total covering Libraries & Archives saying, ‘savings will also be made within the archives service and elsewhere in ACS to achieve the total savings required’. https://committeeminutes.suffolk.gov.uk/... This resulted in a £50k permanent reduction to the SRO budget.

The cumulative effect of these savings, the requirement to transform the service to take advantage of new technologies (an SCC objective and in Government Policy for Archives), falling visitor numbers and confirmation during 2016/17 of the risks to the collections posed by the basement location of the strongrooms at the Lowestoft Record Office made it increasingly difficult to deliver the service as we have always done and justify further expenditure on the Lowestoft strongroom. Therefore the decision was taken on 16 Nov by Sue Roper, Assistant Director (Strategic Development, Growth, Highways and Infrastructure) in consultation with Councillor Tony Goldson, Cabinet Member for Health, in the presence of Jai Raithatha, Head of Economic Development and Kate Chantry, Suffolk Record Office Manager.

FOI response 15950 (attached) provides information on the meetings at which it was discussed following the move of the Suffolk Record Office to the new Directorate.

Accordingly, I believe the Council met the requirements of the legislation and provided all information it held in response to your request.

Of necessity this response has to include reference to legislation. If anything is unclear please do not hesitate to contact us.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, 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.

Kind Regards

Becky
FOI Lead Officer
Performance and Information Management
Suffolk County Council
Constantine House
Constantine Road
Ipswich
IP1 2DH

Tel: 01473 265960
Fax: 01473 216843
Email: [email address]
Web: www.suffolk.gov.uk

show quoted sections