After 2 reasons for refusing a FOI request are overturned by ICO decision notices, Wirral Council just picks another!

After 2 reasons for refusing a FOI request are overturned by ICO decision notices, Wirral Council just picks another!

After 2 reasons for refusing a FOI request are overturned by ICO decision notices, Wirral Council just picks another!

                                            

ICO Information Commissioner's Office logo
ICO Information Commissioner’s Office logo

In March 2013 I made a Freedom of Information Act request to Wirral Council. You can view it on the whatdotheyknow.com website here.

Yesterday I had another refusal at internal review by Mr. Tour of Wirral Council of the part of the request that still remains outstanding.

This was after ICO (the Information Commissioner’s Office) intervened with decision/enforcement notice FS50509081 on the 28th September 2014 and followed by decision/enforcement notice FS50569254 on the 25th July 2015.

However parts 15, 18, 19 and 26 of the request were refused by Wirral Council again.

All those four parts of the request have been withheld because Wirral Council decides that section 36 (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) is engaged. The minutes of the Safeguarding Reference Group (part 26) have an additional reason for refusal because of section 40 (personal information).

I of course plan to appeal this latest refusal to ICO again (which probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone). Essentially however the problem I face to do with this request (which may be familiar to those who make FOI requests and have more experience than I do).

Public body decides on a reason to refuse a FOI request initially and at internal review (this stage could take up to 60 days). ICO disagree with the reason and issue a decision notice requiring the public body not to use that reason for refusing that request and to either provide the information or another reason.

So the public body comes up with another reason. That reason is challenged at internal review (again adding another 60 days). That reason is then appealed to ICO who disagree with the reason and ICO issue another decision notice.

The public body picks another reason to refuse the request and eventually it becomes a merry-go-round. The public body clearly really doesn’t want to give up the information, yet ICO is giving the public body a loophole each time a decision notice is issued by giving them a chance to pick another reason.

This Youtube clip (it should play at the bit that’s relevant) sums up how I feel about this latest development in this FOI request.

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.

Author: John Brace

New media journalist from Birkenhead, England who writes about Wirral Council. Published and promoted by John Brace, 134 Boundary Road, Bidston, CH43 7PH. Printed by UK Webhosting Ltd t/a Tsohost, 113-114 Buckingham Avenue, Slough, Berkshire, England, SL1 4PF.

10 thoughts on “After 2 reasons for refusing a FOI request are overturned by ICO decision notices, Wirral Council just picks another!”

  1. It highlights the incompetence of the local authority, ICO and Local Ombudsman.since the Dransfield vexatious nonsense in Jan 2013 PA nationwide are immune to any policing.
    In other words the Foia and ICO are in meltdown

    1. Well the Local Government Ombudsman hasn’t been involved.

      To be honest with you ICO seem to be quicker at processing FOI appeals than they used to (or maybe it partly depends on the complexity of the matter and how cooperative the public body is).

      I think the annoying thing about FOI requests is that a clever public authority can drag out the process. There’s no penalty on the public body for getting things wrong other than the embarrassment.

      You are right that the vexatious reason is too easily claimed by public authorities. The second decision notice was all about whether a vexatious claim was legitimate. This was at the stage of an internal review of a decision following the first decision notice.

      Basically the public body’s argument was that considering whether exemptions apply at internal review takes a jolly long time to do so therefore the request is vexatious.

      This is despite the fact that an internal review is just reviewing an earlier decision.

      Oh and the public body (in response to the second decision notice) now have the same person doing an internal review of a decision that that person had previously made. Of course the same person is going to reach the same decision!!!

  2. Hi John it appears that that both Tour &Lyon have something to hide that they do not want the public to know. The sooner they learn they are Public Servants i.e serving the public & not hiding behind this rule & that & come clean with home truths the better it will be. Come on Mr Tour & Miss Lyon do what you are supposed to do & serve the public which is what we as ratepayers are entitled to know.

    1. I’ll be frank and put it this way. Mr Tour and Ms Lyon are both solicitors.

      Therefore they represent the interests of their client/employer (Wirral Council). Mr. Tour as a Chief Officer is answerable to the councillors.

      The documents refused are minutes and agendas of committees that councillors sit on (but not in public behind closed doors).

      Now do you see the conundrum that Mr. Tour faces?

      So in the end it is better from a political perspective for him to find a way to say no.

  3. G’day John

    The buffoon that is the fat, purple headed shyster with a room full of dirty filthy secrets should consider his health.

    Ooroo

    James

    Or maybe not who cares?