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Round-up iconDecisions Round-up: 09 to 13 July 2018

There are times when information requests are contained within wider correspondence to a public authority. This week's round up features some good tips on identifying and separating out requests from "business as usual" activities, resulting in fewer missed deadlines. It also features a case where an authority failed to recognise the information as environmental information and therefore subject to the EIRs rather than FOISA.

Learning points:

 

  • Both requesters and authorities need to understand the request
    It can be helpful on occasion for both requesters and authorities to engage with each other, to ensure they reach a shared understanding of what information the requester is looking for. This was an issue we commented on in Decision 093/2018.

  • Requesters: separating out information requests from wider correspondence is good advice
    When information requests are being included in other, complaint-related, correspondence with the authority, the authority may recommend separating out the information requests and sending them to a dedicated FOI contact. As we noted in Decision 097/2018, generally this will be good advice, which requesters should consider following.

 

  • Authorities: make sure information requests are identified and processed under FOI
    Information requests contained in other correspondence still have to be identified and responded to appropriately. If a valid information request is responded to on a "business as usual" basis, it's still important that it meets any relevant requirements in the legislation. Although not mentioned in the decision, this featured in the investigation which led to Decision 093/2018.

Decisions issued:

 

  • Decision 093/2018 Liz Sneddon and East Dunbartonshire Council
    The Council was asked about the management of new posts, in the light of the minutes of a June 2017 Health & Social Care Partnership Board meeting. The Council told the requester it didn't hold information capable of answering the request, and explained why.

    We investigated and were satisfied that the Council did not hold the information requested.

 

  • Decision 097/2018 Mr M and Glasgow City Council
    The Council was asked for information regarding property repairs. The Council responded on a "business as usual" basis. We found that the Council failed to respond to the requests and the request for review within the required timescales (and ordered the Council to comply with the review request).

  • Decision 099/2018 Rob Edwards and NHS Lothian
    NHS Lothian was asked for the financial model for the redevelopment of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital campus (REH phase 1). During our investigation, NHS Lothian disclosed a redacted version of the summary financial model. It withheld the remaining information from the summary and full financial model, arguing, amongst other things, that disclosure would cause substantial harm to the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information. The Commissioner accepted that the remaining information could be withheld.

 

  • Decision 100/2018 Mr N and Aberdeenshire Council
    The Council was asked for the legal opinions it had received with regard to the title of a specified plot of land. The Council refused the request, stating that the information was subject to legal professional privilege and therefore exempt from disclosure. We investigated and found that the Council had failed to recognise the information as environmental information and therefore subject to the EIRs. However, we also found that the Council was entitled to withhold the information under regulation 10(5)(d) of the EIRs.

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