Decisions Round-up: 3 - 7 April 2017

The learning points this week show the importance of focussing on the information when handling requests: search thoroughly to identify all of the information; and whether you are the authority or the requester, make sure your arguments support your position and, crucially, relate to the requested information.

Learning points:

  • Good searches lead to good outcomes
    It's impossible to over-state the importance of thorough searches that are capable of identifying all information covered by the request. In Decision 046/2017, we eventually accepted that all recorded information had been identified - but for various reasons, not all within the control of the public authority, this didn't happen when the request was first considered. Delays like this make it less likely that the requester will finally accept that all information has been provided.

    In Decision 049/2017, the authority was unable to clarify to our satisfaction what information it had held about the distribution of a report at the time the request was made. To make sure the requester received the information they were entitled to, we required the authority to respond again on this point.

  • If withholding information, be prepared to give reasons
    In Decision 048/2017, the authority disclosed most of the information in a contract. It withheld some details, arguing that disclosure would harm the commercial interests of a third party. However, it was unable to give detailed reasons why the harm would happen, and was unable to obtain supporting comments from the third party. We found that most of the information should be disclosed.

    In Decision 049/2017, the authority disclosed a redacted version of a report during our investigation, which it had previously withheld. However, it was unable to explain in sufficient detail why it had not disclosed the redacted report earlier. Without this explanation, we found that the information had been wrongly withheld.


  • Requesters and authorities: make sure your arguments relate closely to the withheld information
    This is a learning point for both public authorities and requesters. In Decision 048/2017, most of a contract document was disclosed, and it was fairly clear from the context what kind of information had been withheld. The public interest arguments provided by the requester didn't relate to the withheld information, focussing on general issues instead. While it's good to make us aware of the background to a request, we will always look at the issues relating to the actual withheld information when reaching a decision on whether it should be disclosed.


Decisions issued:

  • Decision 046/2017 Amir Aryan Manesh and Glasgow City Council
    The Council disclosed information about a flood at a named property but withheld part of one document because it contained personal data. The requester disputed this and also believed that more information should be held.

    During the investigation, the Council provided answers to key questions identified by Mr Aryan Manesh. It provided details of its searches to show that all recorded information had been provided. We accepted that the Council had identified all information covered by the request, and that it was correct to withhold some information which was the personal data of the residents. We ordered the Council to disclose the names of some Council staff: the Council had already disclosed the names under FOI and we could see no reason why they should now be withheld.


  • Decision 047/2017 Mr H and Glasgow City Council
    The Council was asked about complaints concerning a café. We found that the Council failed to respond to both the request and request for review within the required timescales.


  • Decision 048/2017 Citizens Advice Scotland and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
    NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde was asked for information about its contract with CP Plus Ltd. for parking services. It disclosed most of the information, but withheld some financial information, arguing that it was commercially sensitive.

    We accepted that some information was correctly withheld but found, on the submissions provided, that the exemption couldn't be upheld for some information.


  • Decision 049/2017 John Brown and the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC)
    Mr Brown asked the SFC for a redacted version of a report it had commissioned into governance at Glasgow Clyde College. The SFC initially refused to disclose the redacted report, but did so during our investigation.

    We found that it was wrong to have withheld the redacted report when responding to Mr Brown's request. We also found that the SFC had not made clear to Mr Brown what recorded information it held about the distribution of the report, and required the SFC to put this right.


  • Decision 050/2017 First Scottish and Aberdeen City Council
    First Scottish asked for information about High Hedges notices and orders. The Council provided some information but withheld an address. We agreed that the address was personal data which, in this case, was exempt from disclosure.

Resolved cases:

We also resolved ten cases in March without the need for a formal decision.

  • In one case, the requester accepted that they had failed to challenge the application of an exception when asking for a review, so we would be unable to order disclosure even if we found that other exceptions were wrongly applied. The requester will be able to access the information by other means.


  • In six cases, information was provided which satisfied the requester. In one of these cases, the public authority carried out fresh searches, which identified further information. This was disclosed and the requester withdrew his appeal.


  • In one case, the requester accepted that the request, as worded, had been answered and did not cover other information.


  • In one case, the authority provided a late review of its response, allowing the requester to withdraw. 


  • In one case, the requester withdrew the appeal without giving reasons.

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