Decisions Round-up: 7 to 11 May 2018

FOI requests can be refused when they cost too much, but the authority mustn't forget its duty to advise and assist…


Learning points:


  • Requests can be refused if responding will cost too much
    Public authorities will normally hold information in the way which best meets their own organisational needs. Sometimes extracting subsets of this information - which the authority doesn't need itself - can involve a considerable amount of time and resource. This may mean that, while information is held, it can't be provided within the FOI Act's £600 upper limit. (Decision 064/2018).

    Remember, however, that there's no upper cost if the requester is looking for environmental information.


  • …but cost refusals must be fully explained
    When a request is refused because it exceeds the £600 limit, it's important that the requester is told why the cost limit applies and, particularly, how the costs have been worked out. Also, if some relevant information can be provided within the cost limit, the requester should be told about this. These are all ways in which authorities can meet their duty to advise and assist requesters. (Decision 064/2018)


Decisions issued:


  • Decision 058/2018 Mark Howarth and Glasgow City Council
    The Council was asked for details of the members of the Strategic Oversight Group and MAPPA Oversight Group in Glasgow. The Council withheld the information, arguing that it was the personal data of third parties.

    During the investigation, the Council disclosed one member's name. We agreed that the remaining information should be withheld, as it was personal data and its disclosure would breach the first data protection principle.


  • Decision 060/2018 Karen MacLean and Orkney Islands Council
    Ms MacLean asked for information about students enrolled at Orkney College while on the Sex Offenders Register. The Council withheld the requested information as it was personal data, and exempt from disclosure. After an investigation, we accepted this.


  • Decision 062/2018 Scottish Friends of Palestine and Education Scotland
    Education Scotland was asked about the deletion of a cartoon, described as racist, from a learning and teaching resource. It responded by explaining that the cartoon was removed as there was a risk it might be misconstrued. Following a review, Education Scotland confirmed that there was no suggestion the cartoon had actually been deemed racist, and therefore it did not hold any information covered by the request. After an investigation, we agreed that no information was held.


  • Decision 064/2018 Abbie Garton and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland (Police Scotland)
    The requester asked about specific types of fraud that had been reported. Police Scotland stated that complying with the request would cost more than £600 and so they did not have to comply. We accepted this, but found that Police Scotland hadn't provided the requester with sufficient advice and assistance.


  • Decision 065/2018 Robert Peterson and Glasgow City Council
    The Council was asked for information about its handling of an earlier information request. We found that the Council failed to respond to the request and request for review within the FOI timescales.

Resolved cases


We resolved fourteen cases in April without the need for a formal decision. Here are the reasons:


  • In five cases, the requester withdrew after receiving a fresh review outcome from the public authority (which might, in time, lead to them making a new appeal).


  • Three cases related to failures to respond. In each of these, the requester was happy to withdraw after receiving a response from the authority.


  • In two cases, the requester was content with information disclosed during our investigation. They decided not to continue with their appeals.


  • A further two cases related to information the public authority claimed not to hold. In each of these, the requester accepted our explanation of why we were likely to find the information wasn't held, and withdrew.


  • In a case relating to sensitive personal data, the requester acknowledged that we wouldn't require disclosure and decided not to continue with their appeal.


  • In the final case, we explained that we believed the authority would be reasonable in interpreting the request as one which would cost more than £600 to respond to. The requester agreed and withdrew, planning to make a narrower request to the authority.

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