Decisions Round-up 17 to 21 August 2015



Timing is everything as highlighted in last week's Decision's Round-up... we had one case that underlines the importance of time when responding to requests for commercial information, while the second foccussed on a request about the silencing of a local clock.

Key messages:

  • With FOI, timing can be everything...
    Information which might be exempt from disclosure when contractual negotiations are ongoing might be able to be disclosed once those negotiations have concluded. In Decision 127/2015 the fact that negotiations were still ongoing when the request was made meant that the information was sensitive at that time, and that disclosure could have prevented the Council getting the best deal it could.
  • And remember the Commissioner considers circumstances at the time of the review
    Again, looking at Decision 127/2015, even if the negotiations had been concluded by the time the appeal was made to the Commissioner, we still have to decide whether the authority was right to withhold the information at the time of its review.
  • The names of employees won't always be released
    Where an employee holds a senior position, there will often be no reason to withhold their names when replying to an information request. Decision 128/2015, looks at a case where we decided that employee names could be withheld. The employees were not senior officials and did not have public facing roles. The subject of the appeal had attracted attention both locally and in national media, which meant that disclosing their names would put unwarranted focus on them. This case demonstrates the importance of looking at decisions about disclosing names on a case by case basis.

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 127/2015 Ms S and Aberdeenshire Council
    In 2014, the Council agreed to sell land to Tesco to build a superstore in Banff. Tesco subsequently announced that it would no longer be building any new stores, and the Council and Tesco agreed a termination payment. Ms S asked the Council how much this payment was for. We agreed that the Council did not have to disclose this information. At the time Ms S made her request, negotiations were still ongoing about the terms and conditions on which the payment would be made.
  • Decision 128/2015 James McLean and the City of Edinburgh Council
    Mr McLean asked for information about the Council's decision to stop chimes from St Stephen's Church, an historic Edinburgh church in which chimed hourly. The chimes were stopped during restoration work, but were restarted in April 2014. Following complaints about the noise, the chimes were stopped again later that year. Although the Council had provided Mr McLean with some information, following our investigation, we required the Council to disclose more. However, we did find that some personal data and internal communications had been correctly withheld.

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