Totals for Subject Access Requests and FOI Section 40(1) Exemptions in 2016

The request was refused by Sunderland City Council.

Dear Sunderland City Council,

I would like to make an FOI request for the following pieces of information:

1) How many Subject Access Requests did you receive in the year Jan 1st 2016 to Dec 31st 2016 (or your equivalent business/financial year), and;

2) How many FOI Section 40(1) exemptions did you employ during this same time period?

Yours faithfully,

Nick Jackson

Solicitor - Freedom of Information, Sunderland City Council

Re: Your request for information concerning:

Totals for Subject Access Requests and FOI Section 40(1) Exemptions in 2016.

The Council aims to provide available information promptly and in any event within 20 working days, unless, exceptionally, there is a need to consider whether the information is exempt from disclosure.

I will contact you again soon in connection with your request.

Please quote the reference below if you contact the Council regarding this request.

Customer Request Number: 17-10-20

Solicitor - Freedom of Information, Sunderland City Council

Dear Mr Jackson

Thank you for your FOI request below.

I can confirm the Council received 1,421 FOI requests in 2016.

While some of the requests we have received will have been responded to by reference to Section 40(1), we have not recorded the number of times that the provision has been employed as the Council currently has no use for such a figure.

While it might be technically possible to review each of the 1,421 individual FOI cases in order to identify and note which has applied Section 21 it would not be possible to do so within the current FOI Fees Limit.

That is, the Fees Limit (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2004/... ) equates to 18 hours - or 1,080 minutes – of officer time at the statutory hourly rate of £25 / officer hour and the Council is entitled to refuse any FOI requests that would exceed that limit. To carry out the work that would be needed to generate a number in response to your request would require all 1,421 cases to be located, opened, read and the application of Section 21 identified and noted at a rate of roughly 45 seconds per request (1,080 minutes divided by the 1,421 cases requiring examination).

Accordingly your request for information is declined as the data you seek is currently not held (Section 1(1)(a) FOI Act refers) and it would require deployment of public resources in excess of the current fees limit to generate it (Section 12(1) FOI Act refers).

I understand this may not be the response you had hoped for but trust you can appreciate the Council’s position.

If you are dissatisfied with the above response to your request for information, you can ask for the decision to be reviewed in reply to this letter. A request for review should be directed by email to [Sunderland City Council request email], or by post to: Information Governance Officer, Governance Services, Civic Centre, PO Box 100, Sunderland SR2 7DN.

You are of course entitled to apply to the Information Commissioner at any time, although the Commissioner will not usually investigate until the public authority’s internal review procedure has been concluded.

Kind regards

Information Governance Team
Sunderland City Council

Dear Sunderland City Council,

Many thanks for your swift response.

To clarify, my original request was not for the number of FOI requests, but instead for the number of Subject Access Requests. I would appreciate it if you could provide this figure, or let me know if it is not available.

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,

Nick Jackson

Solicitor - Freedom of Information, Sunderland City Council

Dear Mr Jackson

My apologies for mis-reading your request - it had seemed fundamentally similar to one you had directed to the Council's FOI inbox on the same day as the one herein, the error was mine.

I can confirm the Council will be able to collate figures for Subject Access Requests received, but it seems likely that we will not be able to provide any numerical information about the application of Section 40(1) for the same reasons as set out in my e-mail of 02/10/17 at 17:09.

I can advise that, as a matter of course, where an individual requests their own personal data but cites FOI we action their request under DPA (SAR) provisions by default and advise the customer accordingly. However, we do not keep any form of statistical record of the number of times we do this as there is no legislative nor business need to do so: recording such information would therefore involve recording statistics for the sake of it.

As set out in my earlier e-mail, it may be possible to manually examine FOI and, given the subject matter of this request, SAR records in order to identify and count the number of Section 40(1) applications, but as the new total number of individual records that would require examination would inevitably be bigger than the 1,421 FOI requests that could not be checked within fees limit (as previously advised) it is difficult to see how a different fees limit outcome could be more likely.

In light of these points, please confirm whether you wish to continue with this request?

Information Governance Team
Sunderland City Council

Dear Information Governance Team,

In light of your clarification around how you treat requests made under the Freedom of Information Act which should have been made under the Data Protection Act, I can see no point in continuing with the request as I agree the outcome regarding the fees limit will be the same.

Many thanks for your attention, and your clarification of how you handle requests for personal data.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Jackson

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