Decisions Round-up: 8 to 12 July 2019

All three of decisions in this week's round-up look at information being provided in a different form to what the requesters wanted.

In two of the decisions, the authority gave the requester an estimate of the information they held. In one case, this was good practice. In another, we criticised the authority for its approach. What made the cases different?

Learning points:

  • Digests, summaries and estimates - the different ways of providing information
    FOI gives everyone the right to ask for the information an authority holds. Sometimes that information is subject to an exemption, meaning the authority doesn't have to disclose it.

    In Decision 101/2019, the authority was asked how many looked after children it had placed in other areas. It didn't want to disclose the actual numbers, as it was concerned this would lead to individual children being identified (we agreed). However, it did give the requester estimated numbers. This was good practice and in line with the authority's duty to provide advice and assistance to requesters.

    In Decision 100/2019, despite being asked for the dates when claims had been paid out, the authority decided it would be too great a burden to find the exact dates, so instead used estimates. This was not good practice and the Council should have disclosed the actual dates from the start.

    Finally, Decision 102/2019 dealt with a case where the requesters wanted speed data in miles per hour (mph). The authority only held the data in kilometres per hour. We considered whether, in line with section 11 of the FOI Act, asking for the information in mph was the equivalent of asking for a digest or summary, but concluded it wasn't. We were also satisfied that the authority had complied with its duty to advise and assist.


Decisions issued:

  • Decision 100/2019 Mr N and North Ayrshire Council
    The Council was asked how many claims had been made to it about road defects between October 2017 and March 2018, along with information about the claims paid and remedial work carried out. The Council disclosed some information to Mr N, but told him it didn't hold any other information. After Mr N appealed to us, the Council carried out further searches and found more information falling within the scope of his request. This should have been located as part of the initial response.
  • Decision 101/2019 Ms H and Orkney Islands Council
    Ms H asked the Council how many looked after children were placed in Orkney by other local authorities and vice versa. The Council initially refused to disclose any information on the basis that disclosure would identify the children involved. During the investigation, the Council provided some information, including estimated numbers. We agreed that the actual numbers would have a realistic prospect of identifying the children involved. Therefore, the numbers were personal data and, in this case, were exempt from disclosure.
  • Decision 102/2019 The applicants and Transport Scotland
    Transport Scotland were asked about traffic signals at a village on the A75 and, in particular, for speed data. The applicants only wanted the data in miles per hour (mph), but Transport Scotland only held it in kilometres per hour. We noted that Transport Scotland had offered to provide the information in a way that allowed the applicants to transfer it into mph, but they did not want this.

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