Decisions Round-up: 1 to 5 August 2016


In this week's Round-up we see a case where the Commissioner had to remind an authority that just because a document is marked as confidential it doesn't mean the information should automatically be withheld.

We also provide a round-up of the cases that were resolved without the need for a formal decision in July.

Learning points:

  • Marking a document "confidential" doesn't automatically make it so
    Just because a document is marked "confidential", it doesn't automatically make it exempt under the FOI Act. You still need to be able to identify and explain the harm that would (or would be likely to) be caused by disclosing that particular information. We looked at this in Decision 169/2016.

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 169/2016 Councillor Peter Johnston and West Lothian Council
    Councillor Johnston asked the Council how it intended to achieve the revenue savings outlined in its Revenue Budget Plan. The Council disclosed some information, but withheld some information on the grounds that disclosure would harm the effective conduct of public affairs.

    We found that the Council had been correct to withhold some information, but that the remainder should be disclosed. We also found that information which the Council located during our investigation should have been identified earlier, and that the Council failed to respond to Councillor Johnston's review request on time.

Resolved cases:

We also resolved five cases in July without the need for a formal decision. The summaries below show some of the ways in which this was achieved.

  • The requester got a response
    We take failures to respond seriously and will usually issue a decision, even where the authority responds during the investigation. However, the requester is free to withdraw when they get a response if that's what they want to do. We saw one example of this in July.
  • Information was disclosed during the investigation
    This happened twice in July. In one case, the requester was given all the information covered by the request. In the other, only some of the information was disclosed, but the requester accepted this was all he was likely to get in the circumstances.
  • We were unlikely to find in the requester's favour
    In one case, we directed the requester to another decision, published very shortly after they appealed to us, considering the same information in very similar circumstances. The requester then withdrew their application, accepting that we were likely to reach the same conclusion and uphold the public authority's decision to withhold information.
  • The requester decided to withdraw
    A requester may withdraw an appeal at any point without providing a reason: this happened in one case in July.

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