Monday 13 February 2012

More Questions on the 'Undertaking' and a couple of FoI updates

Further to this previous post; 'Council Abandon Unlawful Filming Undertaking'  and the subsequent re-introduction of the undertaking, the Freedom of Information requester has now asked for further clarification. In addition to a full disclosure of the "internal email and/or memo records that reasonably fully describe the perceived necessity for them, legal basis for them, drafts produced, previous versions used (with their dates of use), and all procedures for their administrative roll-out" (the council provided one brief redacted email which is very obviously a snippet of a lengthy round of correspondence), the requester has also now asked;

"For the avoidance of doubt, since it may not be considered part of the FoI request by you, please be kind enough to justify legally the collection of addresses (for instance) from visitors to your public gallery.
 Such a procedure is not included in the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960, or in the consolidation of that into the Local Government Act 1972, or in later Acts.
You are presumably relying, for some reason, on the prevention of a breach of the peace or some similar sounding risk. However, I cannot guess, and I request that you tell me. Of course, your action has to be proportionate to the risk, or your action will be easily challenged in court, to force you to discontinue the procedure.
Please also state clearly how the forms are processed. For instance, do you consider that people must tell the truth, when filling out your form? Are people committing a criminal act if they lie? What established procedure exists, to decide if a form is "correct" or not? Do addresses have to be local? How local? Are you asserting that people have to live in your Authority's geographical area, and/or be on the electoral roll?
In deciding on your procedure, has the Authority been in communication with the police? That is, has the Authority received any advice (unrelated to any actual alleged offence)? Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, please provide me with any documentation of that contact"

The response should be interesting.

On the subject of FoI's, I recently made a complaint to the Information Commissioner (ICO) regarding the Council's response (last October) to my request for 'Senior Council Officers' Register of Business and Personal Interests, and my post from last year on the subject is here; 'Just the Ticket'

It seems the ICO has given County Hall something of a nudge, and the Council's latest response includes the statement below. Described as an 'administrative error', an extra 51 pages, in total, have now been disclosed;
"I refer to your complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) regarding the handling of your request for information on senior officers’declarations of interests, gifts and hospitality.
We have discussed your complaint with a caseworker at the ICO in Cardiff and in the course of doing so have also carried out a further review of the handling of your request.
This has highlighted failings in the searches undertaken when your request was initially dealt with and during the internal review which followed. Additional information is in fact held by the Council which falls within the scope of your request.  Due to an administrative error, a substantial number of declarations, held electronically, was overlooked by our Democratic Services Unit and only came to light following your complaint to the ICO.  This information is attached and we would sincerely apologise for failing to identify and provide this previously.
There are also seven other declarations made by four of the officers listed in your request which we did not consider were genuine declarations of interest, as they concerned these officers’ children.  For instance, a declaration that a daughter was employed in a Council department over which the officer does not have responsibility.  
However, having reviewed our position, we are of the view that these declarations did in fact fall within the scope of your request.
Nonetheless, we believe that the correct approach to these declarations
would be to withhold them from disclosure on the basis that they are
personal data that relate to the family members concerned."

The full email thread, on the WhatDoTheyKnow site, can be read here. The additional (and previous information) can be downloaded, for your information, from the site. I have now accepted the response as complete and shall be mentioning one or two of the entries on the register in the near future.

My request for 'Details of Officers' Expenses', (again under FoI) including fees and expenses for the Returning Officer was recently refused, (see 'The Dark Corners of County Hall). I have now requested an internal review - rather pointless I know, but a necessary step prior to a complaint to the ICO.
Who knows though, maybe the previous ICO complaint will have an effect and an internal review will uncover some other sort of 'administrative error'...anyway, here's the link;
Request for Internal Review - Details of Officers' Expenses

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thought you'd be interested in this article from today's Guardian. :)