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Decision 076/2019: Ms Samantha Kerr and West Lothian Council

Social Work records: failure to respond within statutory timescales

Reference No: 201900606
Decision Date: 13 May 2019

Summary

West Lothian Council (the Council) was asked for information about its records management arrangements concerning official Social Work files. This decision finds that the Council failed to send its response to the correct "whatdotheyknow" email address.

Therefore, the response did not reach the applicant within the timescale required by the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).

Background

Date

Action

25 November 2018

Ms Kerr made an information request to the Council.

12 December 2018

Although the Council responded to the information request. Ms Kerr did not receive a copy of it at that time.

24 December 2018

25 December 2018

4 February 2019

Ms Kerr wrote to the Council requiring a review of its failures to respond.

27 February 2019

The Council responded to Ms Kerr's requirement for review, advising that a response had been issued to her on 12 December 2018.

5 April 2019

Ms Kerr wrote to the Commissioner's Office, stating that she was dissatisfied with what she considered to be the Council's failures to respond and applying to the Commissioner for a decision in terms of section 47(1) of FOISA.

15 April 2019

The Council was notified in writing that an application had been received from Ms Kerr and was invited to comment on the application.

16 April 2019

The Commissioner received submissions from the Council. These submissions are considered below.

Commissioner's analysis and findings

1. The Council explained that it had issued a response to Ms Kerr's information request on 12 December 2018, but had established that the response had been sent to the wrong "whatdotheyknow" email address.

2. It rectified this mistake on 30 April 2019, attaching the response to the correct email address.

3. Section 10(1) of FOISA gives Scottish public authorities a maximum of 20 working days following the date of receipt of the request to comply with a request for information. This is subject to qualifications which are not relevant in this case.

4. Although the Council responded on 12 December 2018, Ms Kerr did not receive a copy of it. Therefore, the Council did not provide a response to Ms Kerr's request for information within 20 working days and the Commissioner finds that it failed to comply with section 10(1) of FOISA.

5. Section 21(1) of FOISA gives Scottish public authorities a maximum of 20 working days following the date of receipt of the requirement to comply with a requirement for review. Again, this is subject to qualifications which are not relevant in this case.

6. It is a matter of fact that the Council did not provide a response to Ms Kerr's requirements for review within 20 working days, so the Commissioner finds that it failed to comply with section 21(1) of FOISA.

7. The Commissioner notes that the Council apologised to Ms Kerr for the error in posting its initial response.

Decision

The Commissioner finds that West Lothian Council (the Council) failed to comply with Part 1 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) in responding to the information request made by Ms Kerr. In particular, the Council failed to respond to Ms Kerr's request and requirements for review within the timescales laid down by sections 10(1) and 21(1) of FOISA.

The Commissioner does not require the Council to take any action in respect of these failures, in response to Ms Kerr's application, given that the response has now been sent to the correct email address.

Appeal

Should either Ms Kerr or West Lothian Council wish to appeal against this decision, they have the right to appeal to the Court of Session on a point of law only. Any such appeal must be made within 42 days after the date of intimation of this decision.

Euan McCulloch
Deputy Head of Enforcement

 

13 May 2019

PDF IconLink to PDF file of decision 076/2019 (164 kb)

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