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Round-up iconDecisions Round-up: 8 to 12 June 2015

Are questions that can be answered "yes" or "no" FOI requests? What if you hold information that would allow you to answer the question, but it isn't in a "yes/no" format? This week's DRU looks at these issues, and also gives a reminder that where opinions or views have been recorded, they can be requested under FOI law.

Key messages:

  • A question can still be a request for information
    When setting out what information they are looking for, all a requester must do is describe that information. As long as the request allows the public authority to identify and locate the information, the way in which the request is worded shouldn't matter.

    The request could be a question inviting a simple "yes" or "no" answer. If the public authority holds information from which the answer to the question is clear, the request will be valid. We consider this in Decision 073/2015.
  • Recorded opinions and views are covered by FOI
    Authorities are not required to create information in response to an information request, but should be careful when someone asks for opinions or views on a particular matter. If opinions or views have been recorded in any way, that information will be covered by the request. This is also considered in Decision 073/2015.
  • Remember - the timescales in the legislation are mandatory
    We still get a number of applications where the public authority has failed to respond on time. Failure to comply with timescales will always be a breach of the legislation, but the problem is readily avoided. Decisions 071/2015, 072/2015 and 074/2015 provide examples.

    If you want to assess your authority's performance on timescales, or get guidance on improving performance, see our self-assessment toolkit pages and download Module 1: Responding on time.

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 071/2015 Andrew Picken and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland (Police Scotland
    This decision finds that Police Scotland failed to comply with Mr Picken's requirement for review within the timescale set down by the FOI Act.
  • Decision 072/2015 Alistair Sloan and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland (Police Scotland)
    This decision finds that Police Scotland failed to respond to Mr Sloan's request and requirement for review within the timescales set down by the FOI Act.
  • Decision 073/2015 Brian George and Glasgow City Council
    Mr George asked the Council for information about alleged breaches of health and safety legislation by a hotel. The Council stated that Mr George's request was not a valid request for recorded information under the FOI Act.

    We found that:
    (i) Mr George had made a valid request for information
    (ii) the Council had failed in its duty to provide reasonable advice and assistance.

    The Commissioner required the Council to carry out a fresh review of its response to the request and respond to Mr George.
  • Decision 074/2015 Ms W and West Lothian Council
    This decision finds that the Council failed to comply with Ms W's requirement for review within the timescale set down by the FOI Act.     
       

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