Decisions Round-up: 21 October to 1 November 2019

FOI gives a right of access to the information held by a public authority when a request is received, and authorities won't always hold the information that a requester expects. This week's round-up features two cases where our investigations found that the information sought by the requester wasn't held.

Learning points:

  • The information an authority holds won't necessarily match the requester's expectations
    When we investigate whether a Scottish public authority holds information, we can only consider what the authority actually held at the time the request was received. While we may consider a requester's reasons for believing certain information should be held, this won't always be reflected in what's actually there. In practice, we need to look at the searches carried out by the authority as alongside, for example, the authority's policies and procedures for retaining information. In Decisions 152/2019 and 153/2019, we considered all the relevant circumstances and concluded that the information in question wasn't held.

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 152/2019 East Renfrewshire Council
    The Council was asked, among other items, for the report of a Business and Financial Review of East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure, and for related correspondence. The report was withheld because the Council believed disclosure would harm commercial interests. The Council advised that it no longer held any related correspondence.

    We investigated and found that some parts of the report were exempt from disclosure, but that other parts should be disclosed. We also found that the Council didn't hold any related correspondence, but that it had failed to respond to the review request within 20 working days.
  • Decision 153/2019 West Lothian Council
    The Council was asked for guidelines and procedures relating to social workers' development of hypothesis. The Council stated that it did not hold the information requested. We investigated and agreed that the Council did not hold the information.
  • Decision 154/2019 Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO)
    The SPSO was asked for statistics concerning complaints related to disability in further/higher education. The SPSO stated that it was not obliged to comply with the request as it would cost too much. We investigated and agreed.

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