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Decisions Round-up: 02 to 06 March 2020Round-up icon

This week, we look at three decisions where we found authorities had failed to carry our proper searches - either information was found during the course of our investigation, or found not to be held at all. We also advise authorities to separate out multiple parts of a request and provide responses to each part.

Learning points:

 

  • A search for information should be robust
    The searches required to identify relevant information will vary from request to request. In each case, authorities should take adequate and proportionate steps to establish what information is (or isn't) held. In two cases, the authorities found further information during investigation and, in the other, the authority only discovered during the investigation that it did not actually hold the information requested.

  • It's a good idea to separate out requests with multiple parts
    When responding to a multiple part request, authorities must be clear on their position in response to each element of the request. We found, in Decision 041/2020, that the authority had failed to provide adequate advice and assistance by not providing a clear response to each part of the request. There's also a tip for requesters here - keep your FOI requests separate from other matters, or structure your requests into different parts. This will help to ensure that they are easily handled by the authority and responded to as quickly as possible.

Decisions issued:

 

  • Decision 037/2020: Scottish Borders Council
    The Council was asked for a range of information about its headstone safety programme. We investigated and found that the Council had not initially found all of the information falling within the scope of the request. By the end of our investigation, we were satisfied that all of the information falling within the scope of the request had been found.

 

  • Decision 038/2020: University of the Highlands and Islands
    The University failed to respond to a request on the basis it was considered vexatious. We did not agree and required it to respond to the request.

 

  • Decision 040/2020: South Ayrshire Council
    The Council was asked for notes made by employees in relation to a planning application. We found that the Council failed to respond to the request for review with in the timescales allowed.

 

  • Decision 041/2020: Glasgow City Council
    Information was requested about the closure of Glasgow Winter Gardens. The Council withheld some information on the basis that disclosure would harm commercial interests and stated that it did not hold some of the information requested. We investigated and found that the Council was partially entitled to withhold some, but not all, of it. We also found that it had failed to identify all of the information falling within the scope of the request, provide adequate advice and assistance and provide notice that some of the information requested was not held.

  • Decision 042/2020: Transport Scotland
    Transport Scotland was asked for information related to speeding on A75 at Springholm. It provided some information, but also stated that some of the information was otherwise accessible to the requesters (and, therefore, exempt from disclosure). During our investigation, Transport Scotland changed its position, stating that it did not actually hold the information. Although we were satisfied that Transport Scotland did not hold some of the information requested, we found that it was wrong to inform the requesters that some of the information was reasonably accessible to them.

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