FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FOUR: BACKGROUND TO THIS REQUEST….

From the report: 5 On 22 May 2017, the complainant made the following request for information from the council:

“I am revising my request to ask for:  

1: Any emails dated November 2012 and December 2012 to or from Lambeth council to the organisation now known as Carnegie Community Trust relating to the Carnegie library, Herne Hill.

2: I would also ask for copies of any email dated November 2012 and December 2012 between the organisation now known as Carnegie Community Trust and (named individual) (former Lambeth council officer).

3: I also wish to request a spreadsheet showing the dates of emails between the organisation now known as Carnegie Community Trust and [named individual) from 2012 – 2016.’.

6 The council responded on 4 July 2017 and refused to provide the information he had requested.

It stated that the request was manifestly unreasonable under regulation 12(4) (b) of the EIR, due to the amount of time it would take to provide the information. It also stated that it did not hold a spreadsheet in respect of the last part of the request, and was not obliged to create one.

7. Following an internal review, the council wrote to the complainant on 2 August 2017. It upheld its original position.

8. The complainant contacted the Commissioner on 19 June 2017 to complain about the way his request for information had been handled. At this stage, no response had been provided by the council. Following the outcome of the internal review, the complainant confirmed on 11 August 2017 that he wished the Commissioner to investigate.

9. The Commissioner considers that the scope of the investigation is to consider whether the council was correct to refuse the request under regulation 12(4)(b) of the EIR, and she will also consider whether the council responded within the statutory time-frame.

……AND THE ORIGINAL REQUEST

10. The complainant first requested correspondence relating to the Carnegie library, Lambeth in October 2016. His request was refused under the exception at regulation 12(4) (b) of the EIR on grounds of cost and the Commissioner carried out an investigation into the Council’s handling of the request.

11. The outcome of the investigation was set out in ICO decision notice ref. FS506550401 on 27 April 2017. The Commissioner found that the exception at regulation 12(4) (b) had been engaged in that case, and that the balance of the public interest test favoured maintaining the exception. However, the Commissioner found that the council had breached regulation 9(1) of the EIR since it had not provided the complainant with sufficient advice and assistance to enable him to consider narrowing the scope of his request. The Commissioner ordered the council to provide this to him.

12. The council provided the complainant with the following advice and assistance on 10 May 2017: “We suggest you request a significantly reduced timeframe of one or two months and/or specific emails from/to a particular officer. If you are aware of any particular issue arising within these emails then you may wish to alter the search terms accordingly and we may be able to provide specific information. ”

13. The complainant submitted the request which is the subject of this investigation, on 22 May 2017.

14. Regulation 12(4) (b) of the EIR states that: ‘a public authority may refuse to disclose information to the extent that… (b) the request for information is manifestly unreasonable’

15. The Commissioner considers that the inclusion of ‘manifestly’ in regulation 12(a)(b) indicates Parliament’s intention that, for information to be withheld under the exception, BOLD the information request must meet a more stringent test than simply being ‘unreasonable’.

‘Manifestly’ means that there must be an obvious or tangible quality to the unreasonableness of complying with the request.

(Note: Lines in bold type by NFCP)

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