Friday 29 March 2013

Complaint to Information Commissioner upheld

Last June I made a Freedom of Information request to Carmarthenshire Council for correspondence between the council and the evangelical Towy Community Church concerning the Excel bowling alley project. You may remember that the council funding, which amounted to £1.4m, was something of a controversial issue and has been discussed on blogs and featured in press reports over the past year or two.

The request to the council was refused as it would have exceeded the appropriate cost/time limit (section 12 exemption) to search and supply the information. An internal appeal drew the same response. I then took it to the Information Commissioner who investigated the matter and finally got back to me yesterday.

My complaint was upheld and the Information Commissioner (ICO) found that the council had incorrectly relied on Section 12(1) as a basis for refusing the request.

The council, in it's time calculations, had included searches of it's back-up records to recover deleted information. The Commissioner only considers back-up records to be subject to FoI if they are held as an archive rather than purely for disaster recovery or similar emergencies.

The council had not provided any evidence to the Commissioner to suggest that its back-up records "are in any way being used as an archive facility". The Commissioner therefore, does not accept that the council can reasonably take into account the time taken to search these records, which brings the time and cost under the appropriate limit.

In effect, the Commissioner has ruled that a new response must be issued which does not rely on the cost/time exemption.

"The Commissioner requires the Council to take the following steps to ensure compliance with the legislation:

* Issue a fresh response under the FOIA that does not rely on section 12(1).

The public authority must take these steps within 35 calendar days of the date of this decision notice. Failure to comply may result in the Commissioner making a written certification of this fact to the High Court pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court"

Either party has a right of appeal which must be made within 28 days.
The original request can be seen here.

The full decision notice is quite lengthy but will shortly (I assume) be available on the ICO website, search here. I will also provide a direct link when it is published. (Ref; FS50461626)


Anonymous said...

So pleased you're back and doing what the local press should be doing but don't! You've been greatly missed.

Anonymous said...