Tuesday, 4 October 2011

NCC Plays FoI Exemption Bingo

Back to my FoI request on the housing allocations scandal which I briefly discussed here.

You may remember that NCC initially claimed my request was vexatious, calling me obsessive and other unpleasant things. I challenged that and they came up with an entirely new set of reasons why I could only have a little bit of information. That was about as far as I got round to writing last time, citing laziness and a desire to get my next challenge in before blogging about it.

Well, the Information Commissioner kindly said I didn't need to send a completely new application in but obviously I needed to provide revised grounds to challenge the revised reasons why I can't be told anything. It took me about four days but these grounds are here and I have sent them winging their way to the ICO. Have a read of them if you like but be prepared for long-winded dreariness. It had to be like that for reasons I will now explain.

Basically, NCC appears to have attempted to cram in as many exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act as possible. Let me list them for you now;

Section 12 where the costs of gathering the information exceed a statutory limit

Section 30(1)(a) concerning investigations by public authorities

Section 31(1)(a), (b) and (h), all concerning law enforcement

Section 36(2)(b)(i) exempting information that could 'inhibit the free and frank provision of advice'. They had to get a 'qualified person' to decide that one you know

and finally, section 42, that exempts information that is covered by legal professional privilege, basically confidential lawyers' advice.

Remember, all that is AFTER they had originally relied on section 14, vexatious requests, which they then abandoned without any explanation after I had spent a significant amount of time preparing a challenge against it.

Now let's have a look at some of the stuff that they did tell me. Here's an interesting admission -

"For information, I can confirm that a meeting was requested with Councillor Collins however Nottinghamshire Police did not indicate the purpose of the meeting. Once it was established that the meeting related to housing allocations it was passed to Glen O’Connell to progress and Councillor Collins had no further involvement with
Nottinghamshire Police over the issue."

They don't give any date for this but it would be interesting to know if it was around the time that JoCo took over the Chair of Notts Police Authority.

Another suspicious looking snippet came from Chief Constable Julia Hodson in an email to Jane Todd -

"As a result I think that our communications people need to get together to mitigate the risks around the publication of the outcome."

NCCLols Translation Service; "We'd better get our story straight before the shit hits the fan".

Also, check out the significant redactions of that email. No explanation was given for that which is a breach of the duty to provide a proper refusal notice.

That's about it really. There are a couple more emails about meetings but nothing with any substance in them and one of them containing further unexplained redactions. In other words they told me nothing.

Still, the substantial issues are now before the ICO and NCC cannot be assured of their exemptions being supported. Whatever happens I suspect this case will go on to the Information Tribunal because I very much doubt that NCC would agree to release the info if the ICO supports any part of my case.


Janet said...

Collusion between Notts Police and the City to (ahem) cover up criminal activity. Now that is interesting.

Bent Society said...

We'll read your posts on this (quite some work you've been doing here). Thankless task - but excellent work. The scandal should not be allowed to be buried. We identified another Nottingham Council scam - this one is potentially lethal and motivated by greed. Check out The 'No Loading Scam'- by Googling it.