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FOI request had redacted costings - is this normal?

0 votes
Hello, this is a question about a County Council matter, but it relates to a PC decision, so I hope someone can advise.  (I am not on the Parish Council, I'm asking as an individual)

Our County Council refused a request to reinstate some street trees, because they said the work was too expensive.  Via a FOI request, I asked the Council if I could see the quote (from a private contractor) for doing the work.  They sent it, but they redacted all the figures, apparently to conceal the very information I'd asked for!  As it is obviously public money, is this normal procedure?  How are we to know how they reached their decision?

Thanks in advance for any advice!
by (180 points)

3 Answers

0 votes
No it isn't.  If the council feel they can't to provide the requested information they should state this in their response, and explain why, normally by reference to a valid exemption article in the FOI act.  Write back to the CC and ask them to review their response. If they don't respond to the review request within 20 working days, they will have breached the act.  If say they won't hold a review, or the review says the FOI was answered properly, lodge a complaint with the information commissioner.
by (28.8k points)
Thanks Graeme, that's really helpful.  It did strike me as odd, and I can only assume they did it because they didn't want me to know the answer, which is in itself pretty dubious ...
I will follow up!
0 votes
They would be allowed to redact the figures and any other relevant detail if the process has not concluded as the foi request could be a competitor. Write and ask them when you will be able to request the figures.
by (5.8k points)
If that was the case they should have stated in their response that they can't provide the requested information at the current time because it is confidential in accordance with Section 41of the FOI Act 2000. However since they already asserted the work was too expensive we must assume that any tendering or quotation process has already been completed.
Thanks Clerk, and thanks Graeme for the updated response.
There was only one tender, and on the basis of that, the CC decided they couldn't afford to do the work.  They actually told me it would cost '£x amount', which I strongly suspect is about 4 times what was actually quoted.  So I will take it further!  But I am finding it quite difficult to get to the bottom of it, and it's so hard to get any accurate information from the CC!
0 votes
Hi, you say it was the county council who decided not to replace the lights as the cost was too high, but it relates to a PC decision.  What was the PC decision (if the CC made the decision, its nothing to do with the PC?).   Re the CC, I do not see that they have refused to replace the lights, as they have tendered for their replacement.  They have not replaced them as they did not have sufficient monies in the pot to do it.  You can ask them how much they put aside for the job (that is not secret), and argue about it being sufficient, or that it was clearly insufficient for such a job, and that they had not taken the issue seriously enough IMHO.  It may be better to just ask them what they plan to do next.  If the answer is 'nothing', then it needs a campaign.  Trying to get the quote number from the CC is unlikely to progress the matter.  A CC recently had to suspend bridge repairs as they only got one tender at 350% of the budget.  They now plan to recast the tender and up the cash pot next year.  So there is a plan.  No plan would be more worrying.
by (1.2k points)
Hi Interested - thanks for your reply.  The issue is that the CC told me they couldn't do the work because it was too expensive, but wouldn't let me see the quote.  I just wanted to find out what they meant by 'too expensive', and I don't quite understand why they won't let me see the figures.

I don't think they'd put any money aside to do the job.  (The PC was involved in the discussion earlier but it was a CC decision finally.  It was all a bit complicated !!).
monty  I see your point.   Sometimes the longer game is better.  Ask them what their plans are to resolve the issue.  If they still say its too expensive then they do not intend to do the work, but they should give an indication as what they intend to do next, and its not a legal issue or something that could be construed as secret.

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