Decisions Round-up: 6 - 17 February 2017

A common feature of our cases this week was authorities disclosing information only after our investigation has started; why did the public authority wait to disclose the information? We also consider the expectations of councillors when it comes to their personal data.


Learning points:


  • Getting it right first time
    In three of the cases in this week's round-up (Decisions , 019/2017 and 021/2017), the public authority disclosed all or some of the information to the requester only after we started investigating. While this was good news for the requesters, in each case the information should have been provided long before. Failing to do so led to unnecessary delay for the requester and a decision against the authority.


  • Personal data and councillors
    Decision 019/2017 was about the non-payment of Council Tax by councillors. During our investigation, the authority disclosed the name of the councillor who had council tax arrears. If the councillor had been a private individual, it's highly unlikely that the name could have been disclosed without breaching the Data Protection Act but, as with senior members of staff, elected members should have different expectations about what should and shouldn't be disclosed about them.

Decisions issued:

  •  Decision 016/2017 James Donlan and East Lothian Council
    East Lothian Council was asked for the names of people receiving housing benefit payments for emergency accommodation. The Council refused to provide the information as disclosure would breach the Data Protection Act 1998. We agreed that the Council was entitled to withhold this personal data.


  • Decisions 017/2019 The Applicant  and Police Scotland
    The Police were asked to provide the number of complaints alleging anti-Catholic behaviour received from members of the public, their own employees or any regulatory authority. The Police refused the request because it would cost too much. They also asked for clarification of the term "regulatory authority".

    During our investigation, the Police discovered that it was possible to provide the information within the cost limit, and did so. We found that they were wrong to refuse to do this when responding to the request. We accepted that the Police were not required to respond to part of the request, as they had not received the clarification needed from the requester.


  • Decision 018/2017 Mr X and Argyll and Bute Council
    This case considered a request for information showing its view on whether there is a legal right of way. The Council withheld information on the grounds that it was contained within legal advice.

    We accepted that the Council was entitled to withhold the legal advice, and found that the Council did not hold any other information. However, we also found that the request should have been considered under the EIRs, as it concerned environmental information.


  • Decision 019/2017 George Freeman and Argyll and Bute Council
    This case involved a request for the names of councillors who were in arrears with Council Tax, with the amount of the arrears. The Council provided the amounts owed, but did not disclose the name of the councillors in arrears until the case came to us for investigation.

    We found that the Council should have provided this information when responding to the request.


  • Decision 020/2017 Francis Berry and the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB)
    The requester asked for a copy of the advice to the Presiding Officer on the legislative competence of the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill. The SPCB withheld the information because it was advice between a lawyer and their client, making it legally privileged.

    We agreed that the information was legal advice which was exempt from disclosure.


  • Decision 021/2017 Mr X and the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB)
    The request was for communications about legal aid applications made by a named person.

    SLAB's initial interpretation of the request was too narrow but, by the end of our investigation SLAB had identified all information relating to the request, and disclosed everything is was required to disclose (with the exception of one name which had been wrongly removed from an email).

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