Decisions Round-up: 28 November to 2 December 2016

Requests are not all the same. Sometimes they will not look like requests, and this week there's a case where an authority missed a request because it was slipped into other, more general, correspondence. And, just because an authority has previously withheld certain types of information does not mean it will always be exempt from disclosure: each request must be considered on its own merits.

Learning points:


  • Watch out for "hidden" requests
    It's so easy to overlook an information request which is slipped in to correspondence on more general matters. This can lead to a failure to respond in time, or a failure to give requesters information about their rights of review and appeal (as happened in Decision 252/2016). 


  • Each request must be considered individually
    Be careful not to assume that certain types of document, or certain kinds of information, will always be exempt from disclosure. In Decision 253/2016, the authority argued that it would always be in the public interest for a certain type of advice to be withheld. But the decision on whether it is in the public interest to disclose advice must be based on the specific circumstances of each case. Factors such as the sensitivity of the information are liable to change with the passage of time. There may be reasons why even the most sensitive advice should be disclosed in the public interest, in some situations. 

Decisions issued:


  • Decision 249/2016 Angus Pattison and East Dunbartonshire Council
    Mr Pattison asked for information about Phase 3 of the Bears Way Cycle Route. We found that the Council failed to respond to his request for review within the twenty working day limit. As this was the third failure within a matter of weeks, we asked the Council to apologise to Mr Pattison.


  • Decision 250/2016 Nic Honhold and City of Edinburgh Council
    The Council was asked for information about two planning applications. This request was first considered in Decision 033/2016, which required the Council to conduct further searches for the requested information. The Council identified some additional information. It disclosed some of this and withheld information it considered to be confidential. We accepted that the Council had now identified all relevant information, and agreed that some of it could be withheld.


  • Decision 251/2016 Paul Fair and Glasgow City Licensing Board
    Mr Fair asked for information about an application for a Personal Licence. We found that the Licensing Board failed to respond in time to his request and request for review.


  • Decision 252/2016 James Duncan and Police Scotland
    Police Scotland was asked for an "audit trail" relating to an earlier FOI request and for statistics showing the number of late responses to FOI requests and requests for review. We found that Police Scotland held more information than it had disclosed, and ordered it to disclose the additional information. We also found that Police Scotland had failed to comply with some technical requirements of the FOI Act, because it had failed to treat Mr Duncan's correspondence as a new information request.


  • Decision 253/2016 Keiron Higgins and the Scottish Ministers
    Mr Higgins asked for information about Scottish Labour's proposal to restore the money lost from potential cuts to tax credits. The Ministers disclosed some information, but withheld other information, arguing that disclosure would harm their ability to formulate and develop policy options. For the most part, we accepted their arguments, but ordered disclosure of information from one document.


  • Decisions 254/2016 Mr A and East Ayrshire Council
    East Ayrshire Council was asked about the award of a contract to the Blue Triangle Housing Association. We found that it had failed to reply in time to Mr Milligan's request for review.

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