Decisions Round-up: 27 to 31 July 2015



Are staff in your authority able to spot FOI requests in other correspondence? In last week's Round-up, we looked at this issue and provide advice to authorities and requesters to reduce the risk of requests being missed.

Key messages:

  • Apply the right legal regime to the information
    While the FOI Act and the Environmental Information Regulations are similar in many ways, there are also significant differences between them. It's important that authorities establish what information is environmental and what is not before responding to a requester. In Decision 114/2015, the public authority considered all of the information as environmental information when it should have considered some under the FOI Act.
  • Be sure information is accessible to the requester before claiming it is
    When refusing to respond to a request because information is "otherwise accessible" make sure it actually is accessible. Also, think about whether you need to give the requester advice and assistance to help them access it. Decision 114/2015 looks in detail at these issues.
  • Look out for FOI requests!
    Information requests can be contained in any correspondence, including letters or emails relating to other issues. All valid information requests must be responded to in line with FOI law. In Decision 116/2015, the public authority acknowledged that it should have taken more care to identify and respond to a request. And carrying on from this...
  • Requesters: try to keep information requests separate from other correspondence
    It's understandable that an information request may arise while you're writing to a public authority on a related matter. Flag it up as a request as well as you can. And be aware that it's more likely to be identified and responded to quickly if you ask for the information separately (we commented on this in Decision 116/2015). See our Tips for Requesters guidance for more information.

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 114/2015 Edna McLeod and Glasgow City Council
    Ms McLeod asked Glasgow City Council for information about stair repairs at a property. Responding under the Environmental Information Regulations, the Council told Ms McLeod it did not have to provide the information because it was already easily accessible to her. Following our investigation, we found that not all the information requested was environmental, so the Council should have considered some of it under the FOI Act.

    We also did not accept that all of the information should have been included in Part II of the Building Standards Register. As that was the reason the Council had argued the information was publicly available and easily accessible, we found that the Council had not handled this aspect of the request properly.
  • Decision 115/2015 Ian Scott and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS)
    Mr Scott asked the SPS for all versions of a Health and Safety report. The SPS confirmed that it did not hold any draft reports, and the only version it held had already been provided to Mr Scott. Following an investigation, we accepted this.
  • Decision 116/2015 Stephen Harte and Aberdeen City Council
    Mr Harte asked the Council for information about the inspection of leased property and dealing with landlords. We found that the Council failed to respond to his request and requirement for review within the FOI Act's timescales. We required the Council to carry out a review, and respond to Mr Harte.

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