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