Wednesday, 9 November 2011

It's Said That We Learn More From What They DON'T Say

Another interesting FoI response from NCC to another requester which fits very appropriately into the 'beggars belief' file. Bit like another I discussed the other week.

In this new case the requester asked for -

"...copies of all emails, letters and memos sent to or from the leader of Nottingham City Council which mention Freedom of Information, and in particular, any correspondence about the Council's compliance with FOI requests."

The reply came thusly -

"The department advise that a thorough search of the Leader's email account has been undertaken on and in particular any correspondence relating to compliance with FOI requests and as a result find no such reference which contains material that fits the description you require has been located."

before confirming that the information could not be provided as it was not held.

First thing to note is that it only mentions a search of JoCo's emails whereas the requester asked for any memos or letters as well. Now that could just be an oversight, or could be a sin by deliberate omission. Either way it's clearly not an adequate response and I hope that the requester takes it further.

If it isn't just a case of sophistry and NCC really is claiming that no communication on FoI policy has gone through the Leader's office then that sounds a little bit fantastical. JoCo has been very vocal about the costs of FoI to the council and, unless he just made a figure up off the top of his head, people would have been assigned the task of coming up with a figure for him. Where are those communications?

I take it NCC and JoCo know it's illegal to delete stuff to avoid it being released under FoI? Like the claim that no internal correspondence was held about plans to deal with NCC's dog poor FoI performance, you really have to wonder what is going on here. Is NCC really defying its FoI obligations by just pretending that internal communications just don't happen?

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