Decisions Round-up: 20 to 24 January 2020

This week we focus on reviews, as many of our decisions cast a spotlight on some issues with authorities not conducting reviews adequately. Obviously, the aim is to get it right first time, but the review is your second chance to get it right where things have gone wrong. Not carrying out a proper review may lead to information having to be released as part of an investigation by the Commissioner. We've also just published our self-assessment toolkit on conducting reviews, so if you know you have an issue, take some time to assess your own performance.


Learning points:

  • A robust review may avoid an investigation by the Commissioner
    In many of our decisions this week, authorities changed their position during our investigations and disclosed information that should have been released at the time of the request. These failures could be easily avoided if a robust and effective review was conducted.
  • Reviews have statutory timescales too
    We issued two decisions this week which found a failure by the authority to respond to a request for review on time (it's 20 working days).


Decisions issued:

  • Decision 002/2020: Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB)
    SLAB was asked for a copy of a paper that was referred to in a policy committee meeting. Having initially refused the request, it disclosed a redacted version of the paper after a review. The Commissioner was satisfied that SLAB was entitled to withhold the remaining information on the basis that disclosure would substantially prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs or the information was subject to legal professional privilege.
  • Decision 003/2020: Fife Council
    The Council was asked how many Self-Directed Support Assessments it had conducted in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The Council withheld some low numbers which it considered to be personal data, but disclosed information during the investigation. Although satisfied with the extent of the Council's searches, the Commissioner found that it had failed to respond within the 20 day limit.
  • Decision 004/2020:South Lanarkshire Council
    A requester asked the Council for communications with councillors related to the extension of Hyndford Quarry. The Council refused, under the EIRs, to supply the information on the basis that it was internal communications. During our investigation, however, it changed its position and disclosed all of the communications with personal data redacted. The Commissioner found that the Council had not been entitled to withhold information on the basis that it was internal communications. The Commissioner also found that the Council was wrong to withhold some information on the basis that it was personal data.
  • Decision 005/2020: Glasgow City Council
    The Council was asked for its guidance protocols for social care services and only partially responded to the request. During the investigation, the Council provided a further response including advice on information it did not hold. By not addressing the whole request at the time of asking, the Commissioner found that the Council had not complied with FOISA.
  • Decision 006/2020: Moray Council
    The requesters asked about the dissolution of the Falconer Trust. We found that the Council failed to respond to the original request and request for review with the required 20 day timescales.
  • Decision 007/2020: Dumfries and Galloway Council
    The requester asked about the Council's informal residence, special guardian and kinship care agreements. We found that the Council failed to respond to the request for review within the FOI timescales.

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