For those of you who are familiar with the process of Freedom of Information, or have read my previous blog post, you’ll know that a local authority has 20 working days to respond to any request. Today is day 20 for my FOI request on this issue, in which I asked for copies of Council policy and procedure in relation to disabled bays. I also requested any email correspondence relating to this specific bay application; including any related correspondence between council officers and elected members.
I have to add that I think it’s beyond ludicrous that I’ve had to submit a FOI request in order to get copies of Argyll & Bute Council policy and procedure, as I believe that this type of information should be freely and readily accessible to all councillors as a matter of course.
At 11:10am this morning (day 20) I received the following response – which I’ve copied verbatim below, apart from where, to protect anonymity, I have removed the name of the member of staff who sent it and the address of the proposed disabled bay.
Dear Councillor McKenzie,
Request for information: Proposed Disabled Bay, Oban
I refer to your request for information which was dealt with in terms of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.
Please see information below and attached in fulfillment of your request.
This disabled bay is currently advisory, and undergoing a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) to make it enforceable. The TRO process is a statutory one, which briefly is as follows:
• Stage 1 and 2 – consultation with emergency and statutory bodies
• Stage 3 – Advertisement and consultation with the general public.
We are at Stage 3 of the process. We have received 6 objections and 22 letters of support for this bay. The objectors have until Tuesday 14th November to withdraw their objections. If any objections are not withdrawn, this TRO will be considered at the Oban, Lorne and the Isles Area Committee on Wednesday 13th December.
The process concludes with consideration of the TRO by the Area Committee. As the process is still underway, it is not appropriate for information pertaining to this TRO to be released into the public domain at this time.
Some of the correspondence you have requested relates to the constituency business of local members, who do not fall within the remit of Freedom of Information legislation. The release of such information is refused in terms of Regulation 10 (4)(a) of Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations (EIR’s).
The release of any other information which falls within the terms of your request is refused on the basis of the following Regulations:
• Regulation 10(4)(e) – as the request involves making available internal communications.
• Regulation 10(5)(d) – the disclosure would or would be likely to prejudice substantially the confidentiality of the proceedings of any public authority where such confidentiality is provided for by law.
Where these exceptions have been used to refuse to disclose information, we are obliged to consider the public interest test. We accept that the release of the information would allow public scrutiny of the process being undertaken by the Council, however, the process is not complete, the final stage being consideration by the Local Area Committee. As such we do not consider that it is in the public interest to release the information you have requested prior to the matter being considered by the Committee In December.
You have also requested a copy of the policy/procedure regarding disabled bays, which is attached.
If you are dissatisfied with the way in which your request for information has been dealt with you are entitled to request a review by writing to the Executive Director Customer Services, Argyll and Bute Council, Kilmory, Lochgilphead, Argyll PA31 8RT, or by email to email@example.com.
Your request for review must state your name and address for correspondence, specify the request for information to which your request for review relates and why you are dissatisfied with the response.
You must make your request for review not later than 40 working days after the expiry of the 20 working day period for response to your initial request by the Council, or not later than 40 working days after the receipt by you of the information provided, any fees notice issued or any notification of refusal or partial refusal.
If you make an application for review and remain dissatisfied with the way in which the review has been dealt with you are entitled to make an application to the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kinburn Castle, Doubledykes Road, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9DS (Tel: 01334 464610) for a further review. You can now do this online here – http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/Appeal.
You must make representation to the Scottish Information Commissioner no later than 6 months after the date of receipt by you of the notice or decision you are dissatisfied with or within 6 months of the expiry of the period of 20 working days from receipt by the Council of your request for review.
DIS Performance HQ Team
Performance and Business Support
Development & Infrastructure Services
Argyll and Bute Council
Tel: 01546 604674 Fax: 01546 604678
As I expected I’ve been denied much of the information that I asked for and instead been provided with a lot of information about where we are in the process, that I already knew.
I have to say that I find it odd that I’m being denied access to the correspondence between other elected members and council officers, as recently as a few weeks ago, I was advised by senior officers that correspondence such as this was not exempt from FOI, and that exemption only applies to correspondence between councillors and their constituents. So ……………. #CONFUSED!
Anyway I’ve sent back the following response;
Many thanks for the response *********,
Some of the information below is really helpful, however there are a few points that I’d like to have clarified if possible, in order to assist my understanding of the way this request has been dealt with. Also it appears that some of the information I requested has been missed from the response.
• Why has my request for release of information been dealt with under Environmental Information (Scotland Regulations) 2004 and not under FOI (Scotland) Act 2002?
• Are there objections to any of the other disabled bay applications in OLI currently out for TRO?
• Is it usual for internal communications between officers and elected members to be refused under the terms of an FOI request?
• You’ll also see that I asked for a copy of the Council policy that the attached procedure relates to, however I note that this hasn’t been included. Would it be possible to have a copy of this Policy sent to me also please, along with the date that it was written, along with details of the committee where it was agreed by the Council?
• Can I also ask when the attached procedure was written and by whom and why it doesn’t include any timescales?
• Lastly would it be possible for me to be provided with a copy of the annual report to the Scottish Government, detailing all of the Council’s actions in relation to this Act, as mentioned in the procedure document.
Many thanks for your anticipated assistance with this,
It will be interesting to see what comes back and how long it takes ………