The Information Commissioner’s Office have told Lambeth council to issue a fresh response to a Freedom of Information request about the Carnegie library, Herne Hill made by News From Crystal Palace.

And that new response must NOT rely on the Environmental Information Regulation which Lambeth council used to refuse the request, say the ICO.

The Information Commissioner’s Office decision issued on December 5th says:

1 The complainant has requested correspondence and information relating to the Carnegie Community Trust and the Carnegie library, Herne Hill from the London borough of Lambeth. The council refused to provide any information and applied the exception at regulation 12(4) (b) of the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) – manifestly unreasonable on grounds of cost.

2  The Commissioner’s decision is that the council has failed to demonstrate that complying with the request would be manifestly unreasonable in all the circumstances of the case.

In addition, the council has breached regulation 14(2) of the EIR since it did not provide a refusal notice to the complainant within the statutory timeframe of 20 working days.

3 The Commissioner requires the public authority to take the following steps to ensure compliance with the legislation:  With regard to requests 1 and 2, issue a fresh response to the complainant which does not rely on regulation 12(4b) of the EIR.  With regard to request 3, issue a fresh response in accordance with the EIR.

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 pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court.

In her conclusions the Commissioner states:

46. With regard to request 3, the Commissioner observes that the complainant asked for a spreadsheet of “emails between the organisation now known as Carnegie Community Trust and [named individual) from 2012 – 2016.”

The council initially argued that a spreadsheet was not held and that it should not have to create information. It also considered that fulfilling the second part of the request alone would exceed the suggested costs limit.

In view of the fact that the council has not yet conducted adequate searches to determine whether any such emails exist, the Commissioner has not considered the council’s position on this part of the request on this decision notice other than to note the following.

47. While the council has explained that it does not hold a spreadsheet containing the information specified in the request, this is not necessarily the end of the story. In her guidance on ‘Determining whether information is held’, the Commissioner addresses in paragraphs 12 the issue of extracting or compiling information to meet a request: “the public authority… [may] hold the correspondence referred to in the request and the information required to produce the schedule will be contained in that correspondence.

It is simply a case of extracting the relevant information (the individual building blocks) from the correspondence and organising them into a schedule. The extraction of existing information and presenting it as a schedule is not the creation of new information.”

48. In this case, the Commissioner considers that the council should have considered whether it is able to compile a spreadsheet (or schedule) and therefore requires it to provide a new response to this request.

The full report (most of which appears in three accompanying articles) is due to be posted on the ICO website (search ‘Carnegie’) Case Reference Number: FER0687058. The ICO report into the previous complaint mentioned in one of the accompanying stories can be found there.

Further reading on your News From Crystal Palace website:


LAMBETHWATCH – UTTERLY BONKERS PART TWO: Lambeth council’s latest reason for refusing a Freedom of Information request:  “PEOPLE NOT INTERESTED IN SECRET CARNEGIE LIBRARY GROUP” (And estate agents should
note that Herne Hill is in a wetlands area.) July 12, 2017

*MOCK THE WEEK: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAMBETH-STYLE February 24, 2017 (which includes: “Fantastic Excuses and when to use them”)


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