UMBEG Meetings

P Smith made this Freedom of Information request to Oxford City 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 Oxford City Council,

Please treat this request for information as a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Please provide the following information:

1. Minutes of the meetings of UMBEG (Unlawfully Moored Boats
Enforcement Group) that have taken place since 22 May 2014.

2. All other information regarding UMBEG created on or after 1st
January 2014.

Thank you. I look forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully,

P Smith

DAVIES Merilyn, Oxford City Council

Dear Mr Smith,

Thank you for your email. Your request was received on 26 November 2015 and you will receive a response within 20 working days, as required under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Yours sincerely

Merilyn

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DAVIES Merilyn, Oxford City Council

Hello Mr Smith,

Thank you for your email and I apologise for the slight delay in responding.

I'm afraid we have no minutes regarding meetings of UMBEG that have taken place since 22 May 2014. We also hold no other information on UMBEG since that date.

I'm sorry I couldn't have been of more assistance.

Best wishes

Merilyn

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Dear Oxford City Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Oxford City Council's handling of my FOI request 'UMBEG Meetings'.

The Unlawfully Moored Boats Enforcement Group (UMBEG) was initiated by Oxford City Council in 2010. Meetings of UMBEG have taken place approximately every two months since early 2011. Meetings of UMBEG took place or were scheduled to take place in Oxford City Council premises on 23rd October 2014; 13th January 2015; 7th July 2015 and 15th September 2015.

Oxford City Council officer Simon Boden, Anti Social Behaviour Investigation Case Manager, is the current convenor of UMBEG. Oxford City Council officer John Copley, Head of Service, Environmental Development, is the officer with ultimate responsibility for UMBEG. Oxford City Councillors Colin Cook and Suzanna Pressel were instrumental in establishing UMBEG.

Therefore to say that Oxford City Council holds "no minutes regarding meetings of UMBEG that have taken place since 22 May 2014" and "no other information on UMBEG since that date" is at best erroneous and at worst untruthful, obstructive and derisory. Please therefore provide the information that I have requested. If this information is not forthcoming within 40 days this matter will be referred to the Information Commissioner.

Thank you. I look forward to your reply.

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

Yours faithfully,

P Smith

DAVIES Merilyn, Oxford City Council

Hello Mr Smith,

Thank you for your email. I have passed this to our monitoring officer and they will be in touch in due course.

Best wishes

Merilyn

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P Smith left an annotation ()

Oxford City Council's failure to respond to my request for internal review has now been referred to the Information Commissioner.

Nick Brown left an annotation ()

See: https://www.oxford.gov.uk/downloads/down.... They had them all along. OCC appear to have engaged in a cover-up.

Nick Brown left an annotation ()

For the avoidance of doubt:
UMBEG Minutes (CLOSED) 7 July 2015 - redacted
UMBEG Minutes (CLOSED) 12 May 2015 - redacted
UMBEG Minutes (CLOSED) 17 March 2015
UMBEG - Hotspot Action Plan - redacted PDF

P Smith left an annotation ()

Information Commissioner's decision:

Reference: FER0629858
1
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)
Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)
Decision notice
Date: 25 July 2016
Public Authority: Oxford City Council
Address: St Aldate’s Chambers
St Aldate’s
Oxford
OX1 1DS
Complainant: P. Smith
Address: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Decision (including any steps ordered)
1. The complainant has requested information from Oxford City Council
(“the Council”) about the Unlawfully Moored Boats Enforcement Group
(“UMBEG”). The Council stated that it did not hold the requested
information.
2. The Commissioner’s decision is that the Council did hold the requested
information and that it breached regulation 5(1) of the EIR by failing to
make it available on request. He also found that by failing to respond
within the statutory timeframe it breached regulation 5(2) and that by
failing to provide an internal review it breached regulations 11(3) and
11(4).
3. The Commissioner requires the Council to take the following steps to
ensure compliance with the legislation.
 Locate all relevant information held in relation to each limb of the
complainant’s request and to issue a fresh response that complies
with regulation 5(1), or issue a valid refusal notice under regulation
14(1).
4. The Council must take these steps within 35 calendar days of the date of
this decision notice. Failure to comply may result in the Commissioner
Reference: FER0629858
2
making written certification of this fact to the High Court pursuant to
section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court.
Request and response
5. On 26 November 2015, the complainant wrote to the Council via the
What Do They Know (“WDTK”) website1
and requested information in
the following terms:
“Please treat this request for information as a request under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000. Please provide the following
information:
1. Minutes of the meetings of UMBEG (Unlawfully Moored Boats
Enforcement Group) that have taken place since 22 May 2014.
2. All other information regarding UMBEG created on or after 1st
January 2014.”
6. The Council responded on 7 January 2016. It stated
“I'm afraid we have no minutes regarding meetings of UMBEG that
have taken place since 22 May 2014. We also hold no other information
on UMBEG since that date.
I'm sorry I couldn't have been of more assistance.”
7. The complainant requested an internal review on 10 February 2016. She
stated:
“The Unlawfully Moored Boats Enforcement Group (UMBEG) was
initiated by Oxford City Council in 2010. Meetings of UMBEG have
taken place approximately every two months since early 2011.
Meetings of UMBEG took place or were scheduled to take place in
Oxford City Council premises on 23rd October 2014; 13th January
2015; 7th July 2015 and 15th September 2015.
Oxford City Council officer [name redacted], Anti Social Behaviour
Investigation Case Manager, is the current convenor of UMBEG. Oxford

1 https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/
Reference: FER0629858
3
City Council officer [name redacted], Head of Service, Environmental
Development, is the officer with ultimate responsibility for UMBEG.
Oxford City Councillors [names redacted] were instrumental in
establishing UMBEG.
Therefore to say that Oxford City Council holds "no minutes regarding
meetings of UMBEG that have taken place since 22 May 2014" and "no
other information on UMBEG since that date" is at best erroneous and
at worst untruthful, obstructive and derisory. Please therefore provide
the information that I have requested.”
8. The Council did not respond to the complainant’s request for an internal
review.
Scope of the case
9. The complainant contacted the Commissioner on 5 May 2016 to
complain about the way her request for information had been handled.
She also added a note to the public WDTK record of the request that she
had complained to the Commissioner.
10. On 27 May 2016, a third party added two annotations to the public
WDTK record, as follows:
“See: https://www.oxford.gov.uk/downloads/down.... They had them
all along. OCC appear to have engaged in a cover-up.”
“For the avoidance of doubt:
UMBEG Minutes (CLOSED) 7 July 2015 - redacted
UMBEG Minutes (CLOSED) 12 May 2015 - redacted
UMBEG Minutes (CLOSED) 17 March 2015
UMBEG - Hotspot Action Plan - redacted PDF”
11. The annotations linked to documents available on the Council’s website,
which fell within the scope of the request.
12. In light of the above, the Commissioner has considered the Council’s
response that it did not hold the requested information. He has also
considered the time the Council took to respond to the request and its
failure to conduct an internal review.
Reference: FER0629858
4
Reasons for decision
Is the information environmental?
13. Information is “environmental” if it meets the definition set out in
regulation 2 of the EIR. Environmental information must be considered
for disclosure under the terms of the EIR. Under regulation 2(1)(c), any
measures that will affect, or be likely to affect, the state of the elements
referred to in 2(1)(a), will be environmental information. The requested
information relates to decision making with regard to usage of local
canals and waterways. The Commissioner therefore considers that the
request should be dealt with under the terms of the EIR.
Regulation 5 – duty to make information available on request
14. The complainant’s grounds for complaint were that she did not accept
that the Council did not hold the information described in the request.
15. Regulation 5(1) states that any person making a request for information
is entitled to have that information communicated to them. It requires a
public authority to establish accurately what information it holds that
falls within the scope of the request. If the finding here is that the
Council failed to identify correctly what relevant information it held, this
would mean that it was in breach of regulation 5(1) of the EIR.
16. When considering whether a public authority has identified all relevant
information that it holds, the Commissioner applies the civil standard of
the balance of probabilities. The issue here is, therefore, whether on the
balance of probabilities the Council identified all the information it held
that fell within the scope of the complainant’s request.
17. The Council had informed the complainant that it did not hold
information that fell within the scope of the request. However, the
complainant’s observations about the status of UMBEG, coupled with the
third party annotations on WDTK (with links to some of the requested
information on the Council’s own website) call this assertion into
question.
18. The Commissioner asked the Council to revisit the request and to clarify
to him precisely what information it held at the time the request was
received, which fell within its scope. The Commissioner asked it to
explain why, if it held relevant information, the complainant was
informed that it did not.
19. Assuming information was held, the Commissioner also asked the
Council to make arrangements to notify the complainant accordingly and
Reference: FER0629858
5
either to disclose it or provide the complainant with a refusal notice,
citing a relevant non-disclosure exception.
20. Finally, the Commissioner asked the Council to explain why it exceeded
the 20 working day time limit for responding in the first instance, and
why it had not actioned the complainant’s request for an internal review.
21. In response, the Council said only the following:
“A thorough trawl was undertaken at that time for minutes or other
information but officers concluded that there were no records of the
meetings. At the time of the FOI request the key personnel, who had
been involved in the group, were no longer in post and no records
could be found.
In May of this year some papers were unearthed and published on the
Council’s website. The documents are redacted versions of the
minutes of meetings of UMBEG held on 17th March 2015, 12th May
2015 and 7th July 2015 as well as a redacted copy of an UMBEG
document entitled “Hotspot Action Plan”. Unfortunately the officers in
the Council’s Community Services department did not inform the
Freedom of Information officer that the information had been found
and published on the website and so [the complainant] was not sent a
copy at that point.
At the beginning of this year the Oxford City Council received an
unprecedented number of FOI requests and the high volume had a
knock on effect on the internal review process. It is for this reason
that the internal review was not conducted sooner.”
22. The Council did not clarify to the Commissioner exactly what information
it held which fell within the scope of the request, at the time it was
received. The Commissioner therefore cannot be certain that the Council
has now identified all the relevant information. However, from the
above, the Commissioner is satisfied that the Council held the
information for which there is a link provided in the third party WDTK
annotations, at the time the request was received, and that the Council
has not confirmed that to the complainant. These points are not
disputed by the Council.
23. By failing to accurately identify whether it held information falling within
the scope of the request, the Council breached regulation 5(1) of the
EIR. Since the Council has not taken steps to rectify its erroneous
response informally, the Commissioner now requires the Council to take
the steps set out in paragraph 3, above, to ensure compliance with the
regulations.
Reference: FER0629858
6
Time for compliance
24. Regulation 5(2) of the EIR states that on receipt of a request, a public
authority must comply with regulation 5(1) as soon as possible and not
later than the twentieth working day following the date of receipt of the
request.
25. The complainant submitted the request on 26 November 2015. The
twentieth working day after the date of receipt was 24 December 2015.
As the Council did not issue a response by that date it breached
regulation 5(2) of the EIR.
Regulation 11 – internal review
26. Regulation 11(1) provides that an applicant may make representations
to a public authority, if they consider that the public authority has failed
to comply with the requirements of the EIR in relation to their request.
27. Regulation 11(3) requires the public authority to consider these
representations, along with any supporting evidence provided by the
applicant, and to decide whether it has complied with the requirements
of the EIR. Finally, regulation 11(4) requires that the public authority
notify the applicant of its decision in relation to the applicant’s
representations no later than forty working days after receipt of those
representations.
28. The complainant requested an internal review of the handling of the
request on 10 February 2016, and provided information which might
have altered the outcome of the request, had it been actioned by the
Council. However, the complainant heard nothing further from the
Council.
29. As the Council has failed to conduct an internal review, the
Commissioner must find that it has failed to comply with regulation
11(3). It follows that, in failing to provide the complainant with notice of
its decision in response to her representations within the appropriate
time period, the Council also failed to comply with regulation 11(4).
Other matters
30. The Commissioner notes that the Council did not take the action he
asked of it during the investigation, which might have enabled the
matter to be informally resolved without recourse to a decision notice
(see paragraph 19, above).
Reference: FER0629858
7
31. He also considers that the Council’s explanation for failing to locate any
of the requested information raises concerns about its wider records
management practices. It has offered little in the way of meaningful
analysis as to how the requested information came to be overlooked (or
“unearthed”), or how such problems may be avoided in future.
32. As well as issuing this notice, the Commissioner has made a separate
record of these matters. These issues may be revisited with the Council
should evidence from other cases suggest that this is necessary.
Reference: FER0629858
8
Right of Appeal
33. Either party has the right to appeal against this decision notice to the
First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights). Information about the appeals
process may be obtained from:
First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights)
GRC & GRP Tribunals,
PO Box 9300,
LEICESTER,
LE1 8DJ
Tel: 0300 1234504
Fax: 0870 739 5836
Email: GRC@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk
Website: www.justice.gov.uk/tribunals/general-reg...
34. If you wish to appeal against a decision notice, you can obtain
information on how to appeal along with the relevant forms from the
Information Tribunal website.
35. Any Notice of Appeal should be served on the Tribunal within 28
(calendar) days of the date on which this decision notice is sent.
Signed ………………………………………………
Samantha Bracegirdle
Senior Case Officer
Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

GRIFFITHS Emma, Oxford City Council

2 Attachments

Dear Ms Smith,

 

Further to your correspondence with the Information Commissioner’s Office
and the Information Commissioner’s Decision Notice dated 25^th July 2016
(ICO ref: FER0629858) please find attached to this email various documents
relating to the Unlawfully Moored Boats Enforcement Group for your
information.

 

During 2015 the Oxford City Council undertook a major restructure of its
staff and as a result those officers with responsibility for dealing with
anti-social behaviour became members of a different department. Moreover,
a number of key officers within the Council who had co-ordinated the
efforts of the Unlawfully Moored Boats Enforcement Group (UMBEG),
including the Service Head who chaired the meeting of the group, left the
employment of the Council.

 

When, in November 2015, you made a Freedom of Information Act request for
information (FOI 5426) for the minutes of UMBEG since 22nd May 2014 and
for any other information regarding UMBEG since 1^st January 2014 a search
was undertaken for information but officers concluded that none was held.
At the time of the FOI request the key personnel, particularly the
aforementioned Service Head and his personal assistant, were no longer in
post and no records could be found.

 

Following receipt of a subsequent Freedom of Information request a further
search was undertaken and the officer who had taken over responsibility
for UMBEG found some (but as is now apparent not all) of the group’s
meeting minutes. These were duly posted on the Council’s website.

 

As a result of the Information Commissioner’s Decision Notice dated 25^th
July 2016 the Council has undertaken an extensive search of its records
and access has been obtained to the electronic filing records, on the
Council’s computer server, of former members of staff. The records were
restricted to a former member of staff and so were not found by the
officer who conducted the original search. I have attached redacted copies
of the documents that were discovered. The documents have been redacted to
remove the personal information of third parties.

 

The Council believes that it has now identified all information held in
relation to both limbs of your request and has sent you all of the
information it has located, redacted as appropriate so as not to disclose
the personal information of third parties.

 

I have made arrangements for the information attached to be posted on the
Council’s website as soon as possible.

 

I hope that this information is helpful.

 

Yours sincerely,

Emma Griffiths, for and on behalf of the Head of Law and Governance

 

 

Emma Griffiths | Lawyer | Law & Governance | Oxford City Council | St
Aldate's Chambers | St Aldate’s | Oxford OX1 1DS | DX 4309 Oxford 1 |
01865 252208

 

Service of documents by email is accepted at
[1][email address] only. The subject header must be
marked ‘SERVICE’.  Service by fax is not accepted.

 

      [2]cid:image001.png@01D0BD65.A1723F30

 

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