Decisions Round-up: 29 April to 10 May 2019

This week, we see three Decisions about poor searches being conducted, with information only found once the case came to us for appeal. Authorities can save a lot of time if the correct searches are conducted at the early stages. We also see a case where a request for information was too wide and fell outwith the £600 cost limit. So we encourage requesters to have a word with the authority before submitting their requests.


Learning points:


  • Authorities - don't delay carrying out proper searches until after the requester has contacted us
    Three of the decisions we look at this week (Decisions 065/2019, 066/2019 and 067/2019) deal with authorities not carrying out proper searches when information requests were received - meaning that further searches had to be carried out when we investigated. In all three cases, the searches led to more information being found. If you're not sure what you should be doing when it comes to searches, have a look at our self-assessment toolkit on searching for, locating and retrieving information. It could save time in the long run.
  • Requesters - keep your requests narrow or you might find the authority doesn't have to comply
    Authorities don't have to comply with FOI requests if it will cost them more than £600 to do so (see the rules set down in Fees Regulations). In Decision 068/2019, we were satisfied that complying with the request would cost much more than £600. It helps to be as specific as possible when describing the information you want. If you think there's a chance complying will cost more than £600, speak to the authority before you submit your request - they've got a duty to advise and assist you, and should help narrow down your request.


Decisions issued:


  • Decision 065/2019 Mr M and Scottish Water
    Scottish Water was asked for the number of slips and falls that had happened in a six month period at Milngavie reservoirs. They disclosed some information but more was located and disclosed during the investigation.


  • Decision 066/2019 Mr U and East Lothian Council
    The Council was asked about the installation of an overflow sewage storage tank. Some information was withheld on the basis that disclosure would prejudice substantially the proceedings of the Council. We found that the Council had failed to identify and locate all the relevant information it held and had not been entitled to withhold information under the exception claimed. The information was disclosed to Mr U during the investigation.


  • Decision 067/2019 Mr P and Midlothian Council
    Mr P asked the Council about road defect reports and claims. It provided some information but told Mr P it had disclosed all of the information it held. However, more information was located and disclosed during the investigation.


  • Decision 068/2019 Dr S and City of Edinburgh Council
    The Council was asked for all parking fee and permit purchasing events and for details of each purchase between October 2014 and May 2018. The Council told Dr S that complying with the request would cost more than £600, which meant that it was not obliged to comply. Following an investigation, which included looking at whether it was possible to provide the information at a lower cost (and found it wasn't), we agreed that the Council was not obliged to comply.

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