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Round-up iconDecisions Round-up: 9 to 13 March 2020

In this week's Decisions Round-up, we have a learning point for requesters about being careful when specifying dates in requests. If the date range changes, this is likely to constitute a separate request. We also learn about a case where incomplete submissions were provided to us in the course of an investigation. Authorities should also provide adequate reasons for applying provisions in FOI law to justify withholding information.

Learning points:

 

  • If authorities withhold information, they should be able to explain why
    If an authority is going to rely on a provision in FOI law to not provide information to a requester, it's important to provide full submissions to us for our investigation. It should also provide adequate reasons why it believes that provision should apply to the information withheld. This was a key issue in Decision 039/2020.

 

  • When making a request, be careful when specifying dates
    When an information request specifies a date range, it's reasonable for the public authority receiving the request to confine its searches to that range. It won't be something the requester can extend without making a new request. The time period the requester is interested in is something they should consider very carefully before making the request, as we learned in Decision 044/2020.

Decisions issued:

 

  • Decision 039/2020 Glasgow City Council
    The Council was asked for handwritten notes it held about the planning/implementation of its Workforce Pay and Benefits Review. It argued that this was a repeated request and that the information was exempt from disclosure. After investigation, we didn't accept that this was a repeated request, but accepted that some information was exempt from disclosure as it was subject to legal professional privilege. However, we didn't agree that exemptions applied to the rest of the withheld information and ordered the Council to disclose it.

 

  • Decision 043/2020 University of Edinburgh
    The University was asked about racism complaints over a five year period. It withheld information about a compensation payment on the basis it was personal data. We investigated and found that the University had complied with the FOI Act.

  • Decision 044/2020 City of Edinburgh Council
    The Council was asked about a planning law seminar and its decision to amend AMC (applications for approval of matters specified in conditions) planning fees. It provided some information, but withheld other information on the basis it comprised internal communications and was subject to legal advice privilege. We found that the Council was entitled to respond in this way.

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