Decisions Round-up: 8-14 June 2019

If a requester is unhappy with an FOI response, they have the right to ask for a review. Public authority reviews should never be a 'rubber-stamping' exercise. Authorities should take the opportunity to carefully consider their original response; adjusting any outcomes, where necessary. One of our decisions this week features a case where a different outcome at review may well have prevented an appeal.

Learning points:


  • Reviews: a second chance to get it right
    We've handled two cases this week where the public authority decided to disclose either some or all of the withheld information during our investigation. In both cases we found that the authorities were wrong to withhold the information at the time of the FOI request. Public authority reviews are an opportunity to reconsider whether any information can be disclosed. If an authority takes them seriously, they can reduce the likelihood appeals being made to us. The Section 60 Code of Practice has helpful guidance on undertaking reviews.

  • Responding to 'What Do They Know' requests is an online platform through which people can make FOI requests to public bodies across the UK. This week we considered an unusual case where a response was sent to the wrong What Do They Know email address. Despite the response being available online, we concluded that the Council's response did not reach the requester within the FOI timescales. Authorities need to ensure that they use the contact details provided for each request, even where there may be multiple requests from the same requester.

Decisions issued:


  • Decision 089/2019 Ms Kerr and West Lothian Council
    The Council was asked for information about its Social Work Service. The Council sent the response to the wrong "What Do They Know" email address. Our decision found that the Council's response did not reach the requester within the FOI timescales.


  • Decision 090/2019 Mrs Carmichael and the Registrar of Independent Schools
    The Registrar was asked for a copy of a complaint about New School, Butterstone. The Registrar withheld the information on the basis that providing the information would prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. We investigated and found that the Registrar was not entitled to withhold the information.

  • Decision 091/2019 Mr S and Dundee City Council
    The Council was asked for the Fire Strategy for the V&A Museum in Dundee. The Council withheld the information on the basis that disclosure would harm public safety. We investigated and found that the Council was entitled to withhold the majority of the Fire Strategy but found that the Executive Summary should have been disclosed.

  • Decision 092/2019 Ms Kerr and the Scottish Ministers
    The Ministers were asked about the independent scrutiny and oversight of any decisions taken within an inter-agency discussion. They stated that they held no information. We investigated and were satisfied that they did not hold the information requested.

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