Looking at another's FoI request to NCC today. It's a request about what NCC is planning to do about its woeful FoI performance.
One of the things requested was as follows -
"1. Any internal correspondence it has setting out why the Council has not been meeting its statutory obligations"
to which the answer beggars belief. Here's the first bit -
"In accordance with section 1 of this act this information cannot be provided as it is not held by this authority."
What the heckins? There has been no internal discussion about FoI failures? Even when they were being formally monitored for non-compliance by the Information Commissioner? Even though they've had 12 decisions (at least partially) against them by the Commissioner?
Or, indeed, even though they've somehow managed to produce an 'action plan' (pdf) which is encouraging. I can only presume that this appeared out of thin air, or perhaps was produced by a single person kept in a box, prevented from consulting with anybody else at NCC, in writing at least.
By the way, this action plan contains the following 'medium term' objective -
"To market NCC as best practice model and take on others workload for fee."
That gap was where I couldn't stop laughing.
Another suspicious bit is this -
"Further, we have received a similar request for ‘information and communications relating to FOI procedures’ and I can confirm that that information was exempted from release under Section 36 of the Act and it is likely that if we had held any information specifically relating to this question, we would have sought to apply the section 36
exemption to that material."
S.36 is the one where they can refuse to tell you stuff if it would inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views or prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.
Now, why would they need to mention s.36 if they are saying that they don't hold the info?
I'm beginning to suspect that NCC is going to pull the s.36 line in any case where internal memos, minutes etc are requested, they certainly did on my 'exemptions bingo' case. It is subject to the public interest test but as I've frequently remarked, NCC equates the 'public interest' to 'not being embarrassing to JoCo and his favoured ones'.
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