Just as News From Crystal Palace was putting the finishing touches to the opinion piece headed ‘Silence of the Lambeths’ we received a reply from Lambeth council’s Freedom of Information people.
We had asked for copies of emails between a named council officer and Friends of Carnegie Library.
The FOI people provided a copy of the first email dated 5th November 2012 – and a spreadsheet showing the dates of the other 19 emails. So we asked for copies of the remaining 19 emails.
We didn’t foresee a problem – after all the FOI team had already provided the first email. What possible problem could there be?
There would: Here’s the Lambeth FOI response received today (Wednesday) the second part of which reads:
We note that we have received 36 requests for information from you regarding the Carnegie library from October 2016 to date.
In July 2017, you sent in six separate requests on one day asking for the same information but for a different timeframe. These requests comprised of 21 separate requests asking for similar information.
Submitting several requests on the same day for largely similar information creates a significant burden both on the team responding to your requests and the team logging and acknowledging the requests.
In order to respond to this request, we would need to retrieve (named officer’s name redacted by News From Crystal Palace) inbox and then review all of the emails for disclosure. It is likely that we would need to redact personal data from the emails in accordance with Regulation 13 EIR.
We also note that providing a response will be likely to lead to further questions in future; meaning there is an ongoing burden to our officers and a significant distraction of resources.
Obsessive nature of the request/intransigence
Firstly, we have considered the number of requests made in one year as indicative of an obsessive interest in the library.
We also note that it is unusual to receive in excess of 20 requests in one day regarding a particular subject; again we consider this is demonstrative of an obsessive or persistent interest in the library.
We note your previous comments from IR205106 indicating you believe there is a “secret organisation” and “There is clearly something very nasty in the Lambeth council woodshed relating to the Carnegie library Herne Hill.”
Also IR176873: “The website you are directing me to is run by a secretive group of five people – two of whom are former Lambeth Labour councillors and a third who is the life partner of a former Lambeth Labour council leader – which is, quite understandably, regarded by many people as nothing more than a Lambeth council ‘front’.”
The Mystery Group / Project Group / Shadow Trust Board would not appear to have anything confidential to hide. What legitimate economic interest is being protected?”
We have provided information to you previously but your requests continue to attempt to uncover more about the “secret” organisation; unfortunately we cannot provide information to support your views and therefore we note your requests have continued. We consider this demonstrates an obsessive attempt to be provided with information which unfortunately does not exist or would not bring to light any “secret” or “nasty” actions undertaken by the council.
BOLD We also note that any refusal necessarily results in an internal review; which we consider demonstrates that you are unwilling to accept our position whenever a response which does not support your theories is presented to you.
We have noted several comments from you which were impolite following our previous responses:-
IR176873: Thank you for your quite frankly farcical email
IR205106: Your nonsensical argument about Herne Hill being a wetlands area is one that has been used by Lambeth to refuse this request before and I am surprised you are still using that. Please see my previous comments on that.
I will be advising estate agents in the Herne Hill area that they will need to change the details of any properties they have on the market in the area to include the FACT that Lambeth council officially consider Herne Hill to be in a wetlands area.
Your utterly inane claim that “We consider that there is little other public interest in any information held due to the age and relevance of the information” is an appalling insult to the people of Herne Hill.You are obviously new to the area so here is a brief history lesson
We also note impolite or abusive language used on your website:-
Why does Lambeth council continue to be so secretive on the issues surrounding the Carnegie if we, as a council, have nothing to hide?
Finally, is this just not yet another example of the appalling waste of time which staff dealing with Freedom of Information requests have to cope with? Who is telling them to provide such misleading answers and wasting the time of both council staff and the questioner in the process?
Whether this is just Lambeth using another of those “Fantastic Excuses and when to use them”* not to answer FOI requests remains to be seen
Lambeth council concludes that the entire request for information should be considered as “vexatious”. As this request relates to Environmental Information; we have also considered the public interest in disclosure/maintaining the exemption.
Public Interest in Disclosure
We note Regulation 12(2) EIR has a presumption of disclosure.
We also note that we have provided information to residents regarding Carnegie Library:
We see no further public interest in disclosure of the information.
Public Interest in maintaining the exception
We consider that compliance with this request represents a burden to the Council as we consider that it would encourage further requests and correspondence if we comply.
Also, we note that we previously advised you (IR207696) that further requests on this subject matter may be considered as vexatious. As you have continued to submit these further requests for information regardless of our warning, we consider that this adds to the consideration that the request is unreasonable. It is not in the public interest for the council to continue to respond to requests deemed unreasonable or vexatious as this is a misuse of public resources.
We further note that the location in question is of little wider public interest across the borough or to any individuals outside of your community.
Overall, Lambeth council has concluded that this request is manifestly unreasonable.
Please note that any further requests relating to this or connected matters is likely to result in a similar refusal notice in accordance with Regulation 12(4)(b).
Right to Review
If you are dissatisfied with the way in which your request has been dealt with then you can request an internal review. Tell us why you are unhappy with our response within 40 working days, and we will consider if the response was responded to correctly.
We will aim to provide you with our review response within 20 working days. Please email email@example.com
If you are unhappy with the review you have a further right to appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which regulates the implementation of the Environmental Information Regulations.
Yours sincerely Jane Shields LLB LLM Policy & Communications Manager Corporate Complaints Unit
London Borough of Lambeth Enabling Team
Lambeth – a cooperative council
(Note: News From Crystal Palace will be asking for a review of this decision in the near future – Ed.).
Further reading on your News From Crystal Palace website on his subject includes:
LAMBETHWATCH: THE TALE OF RHIANNON AND PERCY, THE CAMPAIGNING LIBRARY BEAR (plus the latest Freedom of Information answer from Lambeth…..) January 3rd 2018
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: WATCHDOG SLAMS LAMBETH 7th December 2017:
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.
*MOCK THE WEEK: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAMBETH-STYLE 24th February 2017 (Includes: ‘Fantastic Excuses and when to use them’)
LAMBETH COUNCIL’S UTTERLY BONKERS REASONS FOR NOT ANSWERING FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUESTS……(updated version) February 17th 2017