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Posted by: John Brace | 12th June 2015

Incredible: Why did ICO find Wirral Council twice broke the law by taking too long to reply to 2 requests?

Incredible: Why did ICO find Wirral Council twice broke the law by taking too long to reply to 2 requests?

                                                                  

ICO Information Commissioner's Office logo

ICO Information Commissioner’s Office logo

A bit like the experience I had recently of waiting ages for a bus in Liverpool recently, only for four buses back to back to turn up, the Information Commissioner’s Office have in the last fortnight issued two decision notices involving FOI requests to Wirral Council.

There is a small delay in decision notices being published on ICO’s website, but the first (FS50576394) involving a request I made that was considered under the Environmental Information Regulations can be viewed here. I previously wrote about Wirral Council’s U-turn about disclosing information in response to this request back in May.

The decision notice states “As the information was disclosed outside the 20 working day timescale the Commissioner has concluded that the Council breached the requirements of regulation 5(2). ”

I made the request on the 26th January 2015. Wirral Council ignored my request, so on the 24th February 2015 I requested an internal review. Wirral Council responded to the internal review on the 23rd March 2015 stating it had the information but was withholding it based on a regulation 12(5)(e) exemption.

For those who don’t know what a regulation 12(5)(e) exemption is it’s:

(5) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a), a public authority may refuse to disclose information to the extent that its disclosure would adversely affect

(e) the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information where such confidentiality is provided by law to protect a legitimate economic interest;

I appealed this to the Information Commissioner’s Office on the 25th March 2015 and on the 11th May 2015 Wirral Council did a U-turn stating (you can view the exchanges between myself and Wirral Council on the whatdotheyknow website):

“Following your complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Council has decided to reverse its position, having previously relied on the exception contained in Regulation 12 (5) (e) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. I do not consider that releasing the information would now adversely affect the legitimate economic interest of a third party. The address of the property, which you have requested is 13 Thorneycroft Street, Birkenhead. I have copied this response to the Information Commissioner’s Office.”


As mentioned in my opening sentence, I’m also aware of a decision notice involving a Freedom of Information request that’s been issued recently that hasn’t yet been published on ICO’s website.

This decision notice (FS50568736) (which is not about a FOI request I’ve made) relates to the lack of response by Wirral Council to this FOI request made by Paul Cardin here.

This decision notice states:

“2. The Commissioner’s decision is that the Council has breached section 10(1) of FOIA by failing to respond to the request.

3. The Commissioner requires the public authority to take the following steps to ensure compliance with the legislation.

  • The Council should inform the complainant whether the requested information is held. If the information is held it should provide it to the complainant or else issue a refusal notice in accordance with section 17 of FOIA.
4. 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 written certification of this fact to the High Court (or the Court of Session in Scotland) pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court.”

and

“9. On receipt of the complaint the Commissioner contacted the Council to remind it of its duty to respond to requests for information within 20 working days and to ask that it respond to the complainant. Neither the complainant nor the Commissioner received a response.”

as well as

“11. The complainant made his request for information to the Council on 6 May 2014 but has failed to receive a response. The Council has clearly exceeded the 20 working day limit very significantly and therefore the Commissioner has found that the Council breached section 10(1) in its handling of the request.”

Certainly the common theme running through the two decision notices is Wirral Council exceeding the time limits in the legislation on responding to requests.

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Responses

  1. John you prove the point that right versus mite, these people at the town hall are public servants and as the name implies should be answerable to us the ratepayers instead of combing the rules and regulations to hide the truth.
    No doubt Mr. Tour & the town hall staff should remember who is paying their salary’s & remind them like everybody in the council are answerable to the ratepayers.

    • I think that it’s rare that people appeal an internal review of a FOI request to the Information Commissioner’s Office so the decision notices issued are probably just the tip of a very large iceberg.

      Basically Wirral Council know that for the vast majority of requesters they can claim an exemption (or exemptions) apply.

      If the requester puts forward a decent case at internal review that the exemption (or exemptions) don’t apply, the internal reviewer can respond and say ok they don’t but let’s try this one instead.

      Even if a decision notice is issued stating that they shouldn’t have used a particular exemption, Wirral Council can just respond claiming that another exemption applies, offer the requester a further internal review, knowing that it’ll be months before a further decision notice is issued!

  2. Mr Brace, yet another result for Common Sense. Have you seen the latest Press Release from Phil Davies sitting in the Big Chair, Peel Pull out of the Big Deal, leaving it to Stella and Sam Wa to complete the 4.6 Billion Pound Wirral Waters Project?

  3. Your quite right Mr Brace, missed the L’pool Echo having a Few little problems of my own on the 10th. They say that no man is an Island, but over the years of research, it can feel that way, if you catch my drift? I have come hopefully now to the end of my research, my virtual memory full, etc.
    The bibliography is long enough

  4. G’day John

    Been out all day looking for work…couldn’t find anything in Wirral Stagnant Waters.

    Where is Wirral Stagnant Waters?

    Then just started, Fridays drunk on cheap cider, but had to run out and buy a difficult to afford big bottle of STELLA after four years on the dole since blowing the whistle to HIM and HER who sits on the “Chamber Pot” keeping her gob shut

    TO TOAST

    “The Football Skirt with “GALAH” on the back…

    Wirral council’s strategic director for regeneration, Kevin Adderley, said he now understood Sam Wa would be the “sole funder” for the scheme after Peel decided it would no longer be involved in this type of project.

    He said: “We have not been told by either Peel or Sam Wa that the ITC is not going to happen and on the contrary we have been told there is still the determination by Sam Wa for it to go ahead in Wirral.”

    How does this buffoon get away with it?

    I won’t even mention “Phil the Dill” because…………

    Ooroo

    James

    Brad Davies’s plonker puller

    Ps Will anyone find Hoylake 高尔夫球场

  5. Mr Brace, besides the China Address for SAM WA, which I am told is Very DUSTY and EMPTY, does ADDERLEY have a CURRENT BUSINESS ADDRESS? (Commercially Sensitive, Ongoing Investigation?) Who told him it would or would not go AHEAD? Does he not think it is TIME to CALL IN THE ADMINISTRATION? or RATHER HIS BOSSES? The Contact address was in California not China, however all I have had from Phil Davies is the Last time I looked everything was on Course and of Course, the address and SAM WA have disappeared.

    • Sorry Mr B, Do you think any inference can be drawn from this?


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