Monday, 10 September 2012

An Apology from Barnet Council for an inappropriate FoI response

Here is a response from Barnet Council concerning a Freedom of Information response they sent me which failed completely to answer the question I asked and also failed completely to give an explanation as to why they did not answer it. It also contains an apology from the Council for not providing an appropriate answer or an explanation. It also admits that the correct procedure for processing an FoI request was not followed.

Sadly it does not contain the information.

Information request
Our reference: 177838
Dear Mr Tichborne
I write further to our email of 28 August 2012 acknowledging your request for an internal review into the handling of your request for information. 
You have requested an internal review of the Council’s response in relation to your request for:
all details, plans and correspondence regarding the East-West Link Road ASAP, by means of an FOI request if necessary.

I have undertaken the internal review and the outcome of my review is set out below.
Having reviewed your request and the response sent by the Highways Service, I can inform you that I partially uphold your request for review for the following reasons:
1. The original response did not include correspondence, which was stipulated in your original request.
2. No mention was made in this response as to why correspondence was not provided.
This contravened your information rights under the Freedom of Information Act, as at the very least an explanation should have been given as to why the information was not provided. The response was, unfortunately, not handled using the correct processes for FOI requests put in place by the council, and for this I apologise.
However, I am upholding the council's original decision not to provide the requested information. I estimate that identifying, locating, retrieving and extracting the relevant correspondence would exceed the appropriate costs limit under section 12 of the FOIA. This is currently £450, or 18 hours of officer time at a standard rate of £25 per hour. Elements of processing the request that fall under section 12 are limited to the council:
(a) determining whether it holds the information,

(b) locating the information, or a document which may contain the

(c) retrieving the information, or a document which may contain the
information, and

(d) extracting the information from a document containing it.
I have contacted the relevant officers in Highways and it is estimated that between them over 5,380 emails would need to be reviewed to (a) determine whether they contain any relevant information, (b) locating said information and (c) retrieve the information contained within them. A low estimate of 1 minute per email to conduct this exercise would mean it would take a total of close to 90 hours to fulfil the request. It is the council’s policy, in line with the FOIA, to refuse requests where the appropriate limit is exceeded.
You may wish to narrow the scope of your request in order to bring it below the 18 hour threshold. However, with the volume of information involved, I cannot guarantee that this will be the case.
Your rights
If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at:
The Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF
There is no charge for making an appeal.
Yours sincerely
Jon Hill
Information Governance Officer
Standards & Information Rights Team
London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
Barnet Online:

1 comment:

Mr Mustard said...

The answer about checking all the emails is complete rubbish. If they electronically search 5000 emails for the word "west" that will eliminate most of them and then you will, almost certainly, be inside the time limit.

It is shocking that Jon Hill and/or the Highways officers do not know how to use the most basic search function in Outlook. Knowledge of Microsoft Office is a pretty standard requirement in every job description nowadays.