Last week’s meeting of Lambeth council’s corporate committee contained a report covering the Freedom of Information Act and related issues.
The council’s corporate committee is (very ably) chaired by Cllr Adrian Garden. It’s not politicallly partisan, it just deals with what the committee wants to know. Basically it’s the council’s watchdog for a whole raft of matters including:
“(18) All other matters which are non-Cabinet functions and which are not otherwise reserved to council are not within the terms of reference of any other committee and which are not delegated.”
The report covering the FOI and other matters included the following:
2.48 During 2017/18, the Council received 22 cases from the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office). 8 of these were not upheld by the ICO, 8 were informally dealt with, 4 resulted in further disclosure to the applicant and 2 are ongoing cases. 2.49 During the same period, the ICO issued 17 decision notices. With 10 of these the ICO agreed with the council that all information was provided or that information should be withheld. With 6 the ICO asked that the response was re-issued and with the remaining case, the ICO asked for a partial disclosure to be made to the applicant.
News From Crystal Palace takes a keen interest in Freedom of Information matters involving Lambeth council. (We have made loads of requests).
It took a particular interest in the above ‘2.48’ paragraph and the line “asked for a partial disclosure to be made”
Is this what’s meant by a partial disclosure?. From the ICO’s website:
Lambeth London Borough Council
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”). The Council refused to provide any information and applied the exception at regulation 12(4)(b) of the EIR (Environmental Information regulations) – manifestly unreasonable on grounds of cost. 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. 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(4)(b) of the EIR, and with regard to request 3, issue a fresh response in accordance with the EIR. PDF (1k) attached.
Or – as News From Crystal Palace reported –
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: WATCHDOG SLAMS LAMBETH December 7th 2017
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION TWO – “THE COUNCIL DOES NOT APPEAR TO HAVE TARGETED ITS SEARCHES APPROPRIATELY” – ICO (same date)
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION THREE: THE COUNCIL’S POSITION (same date)
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FOUR: BACKGROUND TO THIS REQUEST….(same date).
RESPONSES INADEQUATE SAYS COUNCILLOR
The quality of responses to members enquiries at Lambeth council has been criticised by Cllr Scott Ainslie.
Cllr Ainslie (Green, St Leonards) told the council’s corporate committee “Sometimes I’m finding the responses inadequate.”
Tim Weetman, head of performance, said he did not see that many councillors or MP’s coming back to him saying the quality of responses was not good enough.
Alison McKane, director of legal services, responding to comments from Cllr Annie Gallop (Lab Vassall) that some other local councils had certain kinds of information in the public domain, said a management sub-group was currently looking at the very issue of open data and transparency.
Note: Councillors are also able to raise service requests directly with the service concerned, and often liaise directly with council officers outside of the usual members’ enquiry process.