Decisions Round-up: 22 to 26 May 2017

There are a few cases in this week's round-up where an appeal could have easily been avoided. This includes two cases where the authority simply failed to respond in time and another where the authority should have realised at the outset that it didn't actually hold the information. There's also a reminder that we expect to see consultation with third parties if an authority is arguing that they will be harmed by disclosure.

Learning points:


  •  Responding on time will save you time …
    In two of the decisions this week (Decisions 076/2017 and 079/2017) the authorities failed to respond to the requests - and requests for reviews - within the timescales required by the FOI Act. Not only did they breach the FOI Act, but they made life more difficult for themselves in the long run as the breaches ended up being investigated by the Commissioner.
  • … as will getting it right first time
    In Decision 081/2017, we agreed that responding to the request would cost more than £600 and that the authority wasn't obliged to comply with the request. This was the second time the request had been appealed to us. The authority originally told the requester that it didn't hold any information. Getting it right first time would have saved the authority one - and perhaps two - investigations.


  • Searches for information - the balance of probabilities
    We regularly deal with cases where the requester thinks that the authority holds more information than has been disclosed to them. And it's true that, in many cases, authorities do find additional information once we start checking on the searches that were carried out. However, in two cases this week (Decisions 075/2016 and 078/2017), we were satisfied, on balance of probabilities, that the authorities' searches were adequate and that they had disclosed all the information they held.


Decisions issued:


  •  Decision 075/2017 Angus Pattison and East Dunbartonshire Council
    The Council was asked for specific details about Phases 1 and 2 of the Bears Way Cycleway Project. Mr Pattison believed the Council held more information than it had disclosed, but we were satisfied that the Council had provided all the information it held.


  • Decision 076/2017 Dean Herbert and Police Scotland
    Police Scotland were asked about expenditure on official credit cards. They failed to respond to the request and request for review within the timescales.


  • Decision 077/2017 Mr A and Aberdeen City Council
    The Council refused to disclose information about its Pension Fund investments on the basis that disclosure would harm the commercial interests of the firms involved. The Commissioner did not believe that disclosure of the information asked for would have this effect and ordered the Council to disclose the information.


  • Decision 078/2017 Julian Calvert and Argyll and Bute Council
    The Council was asked for a list of the empty and disused properties it owned. Mr Calvert was not convinced that the information provided to him was complete, but the Commissioner was satisfied that the Council had identified and disclosed all the information it held. 


  •  Decision 079/2017 Angela Gilmour and Stirling Council
    Ms Gilmour asked the Council about a voluntary severance exercise carried out in 2016/17. The Council failed to respond to the request and request for review within the FOI timescale. The Commissioner ordered the Council to comply. 


  •  Decision 080/2017 Stephen Temlett and Dumfries and Galloway Council
    This case concerned a request for the cost of repairs to the DG One Leisure Centre in Dumfries, and the settlement figure the Council had agreed with the original contractor, Kier Construction. During the investigation, the Council disclosed the information about the cost of repairs, but continued to withhold the settlement figure, arguing that disclosure would harm the effective conduct of public affairs. The Commissioner found that the Council was not entitled to withhold the settlement figure and ordered the Council to disclose it. 


  •  Decision 081/2017 Robert Wilson and Scottish Enterprise
    Scottish Enterprise was asked how much it and its subsidiaries paid to micro businesses in support grants in 2014/2015 and how many micro businesses had received the grants. Scottish Enterprise told Mr Wilson that complying with the request would cost more than £600 and that, as a result, it did not have to comply. The Commissioner agreed.


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