Decisions Round-up: 19 to 23 March 2018

Information which appears to be covered by a confidentiality clause won't necessarily be exempt under FOI law. Our Round-up explains why…

Learning points:


  • Is information really confidential?
    When claiming information is confidential, it's not enough to be able to point to a confidentiality clause that might cover the information. A public authority must look behind the clause and consider the nature of the information, to decide whether it meets the legal test of confidentiality. We commented on this in Decision 036/2018.


  • Authorities: prepare for staff absences!
    We often find that delays in responding to requests could have been avoided if staff absences were adequately covered. This is every authority's responsibility, and includes ensuring that replacement staff are trained appropriately. At the very least, they must be able to recognise an information request or a request for review - and know what to do with one. These are points we looked at in Decision 035/2018.

Decisions issued:


  • Decision 035/2018 Mr A and Highland Council
    The Council was asked about lair plans for the burial grounds at Abernethy cemetery, plus interment records relating to a specific lair. We found that the Council failed to respond to the request and review request within the FOI timescales.


  • Decision 036/2018 Severin Carrell and Shetland Islands Council
    The Council was asked for a copy of the contract for Anderson High School and related information. This led to an appeal to the Commissioner and the Council was required to respond under the Environmental Information Regulations. The Council gave a response which withheld the information under the exceptions which protect confidential commercial information and the interests of third parties. During our investigation, the Council reviewed its position and disclosed some information. We accepted that the Council was entitled to withhold the rest of the information as it was confidential.


  • Decision 037/2018 Allan Nugent and Glasgow City Council
    The Council was asked when a named employee began and finished her maternity leave. The Council considered the request vexatious and refused to comply with it. We agreed that the request was vexatious.


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