TfL Chief Safety, Health & Environment Officer's Communications regarding Covid-19/Coronavirus Risks to London Transport Workers (1 January - 30 April 2020)

Tom Kearney made this Freedom of Information request to Transport for London

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 refused by Transport for London.

Dear Transport for London,

I would like to request all documentation that specifically mentions Covid-19/Coronavirus Risks to London Transport Workers—including meeting minutes, reports, draft documents, emails, handwritten notes, memorandums—sent or received by TfL's Chief Safety, Health & Environment Officer between 1 January - 30 April 2020..

Yours faithfully,

Tom Kearney

FOI, Transport for London

Dear Mr Kearney

 

Our Ref:         FOI-0208-2021

 

Thank you for your request received on 12 May 2020 asking for information
about Covid-19/coronavirus risks to London Transport workers.

 

The Government has announced a series of measures to tackle the
coronavirus. It is essential for London, that we continue to provide a
safe transport network for essential journeys.

 

In current circumstances, we are not able to answer FOI requests readily
and we ask that you please do not make a request to us at present.

 

Answering FOI requests will require the use of limited resources and the
attention of staff who could be supporting other essential activity. In
any event, please note that our response time will be affected by the
current situation. Please notify us as soon as possible if you would like
to withdraw your request at the current time.

 

Should you wish to proceed with the request we will aim to issue a
response by 10 June 2020 in accordance with the Freedom of Information
Act 2000 and our information access policy. We publish a substantial
range of information on our website on subjects including operational
performance, contracts, expenditure, journey data, governance and our
financial performance. This includes data which is frequently asked for in
FOI requests or other public queries. Please check
[1]http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/transpar... to see if this helps you.

 

We will publish anonymised versions of requests and responses on the
[2]www.tfl.gov.uk website. We will not publish your name and we will send
a copy of the response to you before it is published on our website.

 

In the meantime, if you would like to discuss this matter further, please
do not hesitate to contact me.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Gemma Jacob

Senior FOI Case Officer

FOI Case Management Team

General Counsel

Transport for London

 

[3][TfL request email]

 

 

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Dear FOI,

I intend to proceed with my request. Please respond by the time allowed by law.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Kearney

FOI, Transport for London

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Kearney

 

Our Ref:         FOI-0180-2021 / FOI-0181-2021 / FOI-0182-2021 /
FOI-0201-2021 / FOI-0207-2021 / FOI-0208-2021 / FOI-0262-2021

 

Thank you for your requests received on 7, 9, 12, and 21 May 2020.

 

Your requests have been considered in accordance with the requirements of
the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and our information access policy.

 

Our records show that you have made seven FOI requests to TfL in a
continuous period of 10 working days (excluding bank holidays) up to and
including the date of your most recent request of 21 May 2020.

 

Under Section 12 of the FOI Act, we are not obliged to comply with a
request if we estimate that the cost of determining whether we hold the
information, locating and retrieving it and extracting it from other
information would exceed the appropriate limit of £450 provided for in the
Freedom of Information (FOI) and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and
Fees) Regulations 2004. This is calculated at £25 per hour for every hour
spent on the activities described.

 

We have estimated that it would cost in excess of £450 to provide a
response to your current requests. This is because it is estimated that it
would take over 18 working hours to retrieve and compile the information
you have requested. We are now applying an aggregate cost limit to the
outstanding requests which we received from you between 7 to 21 May,
inclusive.

 

As you are aware, when requests for email correspondence are received the
FOI Case Management team may use a search tool called Discovery
Accelerator. This allows us to conduct company wide email searches using
keywords, dates and email addresses. The more specific a requester can be
as to what they are looking for, the more we can narrow the search and
therefore stand a better chance of a more relevant or focused result. A
search will then return an amount of ‘hits’ which potentially contain
information relating to the search terms used. Each ‘hit’ is a single
email, although that email will often consist of a chain of emails
containing the search term at least once.

 

All but one of your requests (FOI-0201-2021) asks for correspondence,
along with other documentation including handwritten notes, meeting
minutes, memorandum, reports, and draft documents. We would have to carry
out a search for each of these requests and whilst you have specified in
some of your requests whose correspondence you would like to receive
(FOI-0182-2021 and FOI-0208-2021 – TfL’s Chief Safety, Health &
Environment Officer in both cases) we would still have to do a companywide
search in order to ensure all of the relevant correspondence was captured.

 

A large number of the emails we would be able to locate would most likely
be irrelevant to your request (for instance, there are likely to have been
several general updates or press releases sent to all staff regarding the
coronavirus from the Press Office and our internal communications team),
and there would be some duplication. However, we would need to manually
review all of the emails identified by the search in order to extract and
collate the relevant emails.

 

In addition, as you are aware, a large number of TfL staff are currently
furloughed and the remaining office-based staff are working from home so
they do not have physical access to search for some of the information you
have requested, particularly in regard to FOI-0182-2021 regarding the
Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System and FOI-0207-2021
regarding the Tripartite Agreement between TfL, bus operators, and Unite
the Union.

 

Please also note, with regard to your request concerning the review into
coronavirus infections and deaths UCL will be carrying out on our behalf
(FOI-0262-2021), the terms of reference will be published in due course.

 

While we appreciate there is a high level of interest in the issues you
have raised, there is a small team available to respond to these requests
and the burden placed on them has to be balanced with their substantive
roles. To help bring the cost of responding to your request within the
£450 limit, you may wish to prioritise the information you are most
interested in and make a single request on a topic, rather than several
requests in a short period of time in order to make the best use of the
processing time available to you under the FOI Act. Additionally, instead
of requesting ‘all’ documentation and correspondence, if you have specific
questions it may be easier to answer these.

 

It is also an unavoidable consequence that processing this request would
require critical employees to be diverted from their operational
responsibilities and, in the current circumstances, we consider that our
priority must remain on providing and maintaining an effective transport
system to essential workers across the capital and that our limited
resources are utilised as effectively as possible to ensure that happens.
By their nature, emails contain a significant amount of personal data such
as phone numbers and email addresses. Whilst the process of redaction does
not feature as part of our considerations on whether the cost limit might
apply, the burden created by non-specific requests for emails is
significant and this should be borne in mind before submitting requests of
this nature.

 

In the meantime, if you have any queries or would like to discuss your
request, please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to
appeal.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Gemma Jacob

Senior FOI Case Officer

FOI Case Management Team

General Counsel

Transport for London

 

[1][TfL request email]

 

 

FOI-0262-2021

 

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Dear Transport for London,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Transport for London's handling of my FOI request 'TfL Chief Safety, Health & Environment Officer's Communications regarding Covid-19/Coronavirus Risks to London Transport Workers (1 January - 30 April 2020)'.

TfL has failed to answer any FOI Requests I have filed since March. By (a) aggregating all of my unanswered FOI Requests (including those it failed to answer within the time allowed by law) and then (b) rejecting them en masse with the excuse "We have estimated that it would cost in excess of £450 to provide a response to your current requests", I believe TfL is not operating within the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act.

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

Yours faithfully,

Tom Kearney

FOI, Transport for London

Thank you for your request for an internal review which was received on 16
June 2020.

 

You have stated that you are dissatisfied with the handling of your
request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

The review will be conducted by an internal review panel in accordance
with TfL’s Internal Review Procedure, which is available via the following
URL:

 

[1]http://content.tfl.gov.uk/internal-revie...

 

Every effort will be made to provide you with a response by 15 July 2020.
However, if the review will not be completed by this date, we will contact
you and notify you of the revised response date as soon as possible.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Lee Hill

Information Access Manager

FOI Case Management Team

General Counsel

 

 

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References

Visible links
1. http://content.tfl.gov.uk/internal-revie...
2. http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/

FOI, Transport for London

Dear Mr Kearney

 

I am contacting you with regards to your internal review request of 16
June 2020. Following your email a review has been carried out by
individuals who were not involved in the handling of your requests. You
have disputed the response provided to your seven requests which advised
that your requests were being refused under section 12 of the FOI Act due
to the appropriate cost limit being exceeded.

 

To provide a little more context regarding section 12 of the Act, it
allows a public authority to refuse to deal with a request where it
estimates that it would exceed the appropriate limit to-

 

(a) either comply with the request in its entirety or;

(b) confirm or deny whether the requested information is held.

 

The relevant Regulations which define the appropriate limit for section 12
purposes are The Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate
Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004.

 

Under Regulation 5(2) of the Regulations, we are permitted to aggregate
requests where they relate to any extent to the same or similar
information and this aggregation applies to any requests that are received
within a sixty working day period. As the seven requests were all made by
a single applicant, all within ten working days and related to the same or
similar matters it was considered that the requests sufficiently met the
criteria that allows for the aggregating of requests for the purposes of
the FOI Act.

 

Having re-looked at this, we are content that the decision to aggregate
the requests was proportionate, appropriate and in line with the
legislation.

 

Further, it is likely that many of the requests would have exceeded the
cost limit on their own due to the very broad scope of the requests and
the difficulty that would have arisen in locating and extracting the
specific information requested from within wider correspondence and
document searches. Requests that ask for ‘all documentation’ on any given
subject can often present difficulties in terms of identifying within
scope of the request and it is for this reason that we ask applicants to
be as specific as possible regarding the information being sought. Often,
the only way to process such requests is to conduct broad keyword searches
across large numbers of TfL employees’ email accounts (and in some
instances across the entire organisation) and then manually review the
results in order to extract those which are relevant. This in itself can
be an extremely time consuming task in the absence of more specific
direction in relation to the information being sought. Further this search
would also not necessarily include any wider documentation that may be
held and be relevant to a request, which would add to the processing time
necessary.

 

Therefore, due to the wide scope of your requests and the difficulties
that would arise in locating, extracting and collating everything of
relevance to your requests, the internal review has concluded that it was
both correct and appropriate to issue a refusal notice citing section 12.
On that basis your complaint has not been upheld.

 

For the reasons outlined above, we always recommend that requests are as
specific as possible as to the information being sought. This is
especially true in the case of correspondence requests as by their very
nature they can incorporate large volumes of information, much of which
would be likely to be irrelevant or of very limited interest or value. We
are committed to transparency and achieve this by pro-active publication,
responses to requests for information and engagement in a range of other
scrutiny and accountability mechanisms and are keen to ensure the most
productive use is made of FOI requests. We encourage requesters to take
into account the guidance and advice provided by the Information
Commissioners Office (ICO) such as the “dos and don’ts” published on its
website in order to make the best use of the processing time available
under the FOI Act. It can be far more productive to request specific
reports, documents or ask direct questions rather than cast a wide email
search as the burden created by these can often result in consideration of
an exemption on the basis of the time required to complete. 

 

The following link to the ICO website provides advice on how to make an
FOI request -
[1]https://ico.org.uk/your-data-matters/off...

 

When submitting a further request, we would encourage you to prioritise
the information that is of most importance to you to ensure that you are
able to make the best use of the resources available to you under the FOI
Act.

 

If you are dissatisfied with the internal review actions to date please do
not hesitate to contact me or alternately you can refer the matter to the
independent authority responsible for enforcing the Freedom of Information
Act, at the following address:

 

Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire SK9 5AF

 

A complaint form is also available on the ICO’s website
([2]www.ico.org.uk).

 

Yours sincerely

 

Lee Hill

Information Access Manager

FOI Case Management Team

Transport for London

[3][TfL request email]

 

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References

Visible links
1. https://ico.org.uk/your-data-matters/off...
2. http://www.ico.org.uk/
3. mailto:[TfL request email]
4. http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/