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0 votes
Can a Clerk withhold documents from the public that were provided to councillors in an open session?  The Clerk has stated that there are known errors in the documents and releasing them could have been misleading.
by (1.5k points)

2 Answers

0 votes
That sounds like a wishy-washy excuse, but I guess it depends what the documents are.
by (52.9k points)
Draft budget documents from committees.  I don't see why the documents couldn't be released with caveats pointing out where the errors are. If the reports have been seen by councillors why not by the public?
You were lucky that the issue was discussed in open session.  The excuse here is, once again, it is work in progress.  The sad thing is, councillors go along with it, and its unanimous!
Thankfully FOI is not only policed by councillors.
0 votes
Why not just provide corrected versions of the document at the meeting to both councillors and the public?
by (18.5k points)
The documents are not being corrected.  They are being used to formulate the complete draft budget;  the draft budget assembly is not yet complete.
As the ICO can confirm  I’m a fanatic about things like this

So wrong or not they were used at an open public meeting so you are entitled to see them and they should be covered by the Councils document retention policy

If they are not already set up set the Council up on Whatdotheyknow and make a FOI request the advantage being it is then in the public domain and the site helps you manage your request step by step

At Borough level this wouldn’t be a problem because all supporting papers for a meeting ( unless confidential) are available on line
The public are forced by Law to pay these people the least they can do in return is be open and honest about what they do with it
After the first refusal I raised a FOI.  Clerk's response: "the information you had requested was refused under the Freedom of Information Act 2005, section 22.... The public interest test was considered in determining this response as it felt it was not appropriate to give detailed budgeting information that was still in draft stages."  I have three issues with this: a) once a document is shown to councillors in a public forum i.e. a Council committee meeting, it is per se a public document b) the information could be published with a health warning that the documents contain errors c) the precedence this sets in allowing the Clerk to determine what is, and what is not, appropriate to release with respect an FOI request

The ICO on this section of the FOI legislation: "Section 22 provides an exemption for information that is intended to be published in the future. ... It is a qualified exemption and therefore public authorities must consider whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption is greater than the public interest in disclosing the requested information."
I know a Parish Council that would sooner waste £100's fighting FOI requests than just simply copy a couple of documents and respond because they resent any intrusion into "their" affairs

I completely agree with your summary at  a) b) and c) its not clear from your answer how far you have progressed this but on the face of it  if you haven't already done so you need to make a request for an internal review
Although there's no need to I'd point out the costs of simply copying a couple of documents compared to the costs of refusing
Its my council's policy to publish all supporting documents for meetings on the website so everyone has access but not sure where this gets anyone if the document is very much a draft and a decision is not taken.  I get that having a look at the document before councillors discuss it means you can potentially input to the discussion but the end result needs to be the final version that is agreed.  After the meeting, not sure I'd bother with an FOI that can legitimately take a month for a response when another version of the document is likely to be available sooner

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