Follow us on Twitter

Freedom of Information - Is there a template for the wording of an F.O.I request .

0 votes
Is there a specific format for the wording of an F.O.I  request ?  Our clerk is selective in what  correspondance is shown to the full council  and previous attempts to obtain sight of letters sent on behalf of the council have been met with rejection on the grounds of a  "need to know"  basis as enshrined in the  Standing Orders, or a failure to understand both formal or informal requests written in the english language .

 The  local  ALC has also  fully supported the clerk, citing they personally know the clerk and reasoning this could be considered as unnecessary supervision as the clerk is only acting on the decisions  made by the council, questioning why I need to see it .If only that was the case !   This behaviour would not  be tolerated in workplace yet appears commonplace in small PC's  so any help would be gratefully recieved.
by (870 points)

4 Answers

0 votes
If you don't mind me asking - what is it that you want to see?
by (3.9k points)
A response written by the clerk to a resident on behalf of the council .
On the face of it, I cannot see any reason to refuse you a copy ... unless there is more to it than meets the eye.
0 votes
The Clerk should only be sending correspondence on instruction from the Council and not on their own back.
by (3.2k points)
The clerk's job description allows the use of  initiative, and as Ive mentioned the local  ALC backed the clerk.
The Clerks need some sort of initiative because they do work on their own but shouldn’t be writing letters on their own behalf, I would expect the Council to ask the Clerk to send a letter and maybe the Chair to see it before it is sent.  Our Clerk will often reply to a resident if they receive an email (actual letters are a rarity now) if it is for minor information but it will appear on the agenda under their clerks report that correspondence has been received, anything major will be referred to the council for an answer.
Yes, the Clerk and Chairman work very closely.  I  often ask myself why there is a need for 8  other councillors when the Clerk and Chairman act on behalf of the council and whoah betide anyone brave enough to question or disagree with their actions. As our Clerk sets the agenda the council are not always asked how they would like to answer, just verbally informed that a letter has been sent in reply and any request from myself  for sight of the correspondence ( letter or email ) denied as explained in the initial post.   How, as both  a councilor and resident can I  get access to correspondence written on my behalf  ?
0 votes
There isn't a template as such but any FOI response should be quoted in outgoing council correspondence and made available for councillors to inspect if they request it .  The Council are responsible for complying with the FOI Act 2000 and are potentially answerable to the Information Commissioner with a compliance notice if the applicant puts an upheld compaint before the ICO.  The requestor may ask the Council for an internal review of the FOI so clearly they have to see a copy of the response in those circumstances. In the real world, not all clerks provide satisfactory FOI responses.
by (32.3k points)
Just be aware that there may be GDPR implications if the correspondence includes personal data such as names and addresses etc. without the resident's express permission to broadcast the correspondence widely.  The base of the letter, however, shouldn't be an issue
The council would not normally publish the request and their response in the public domain.  However, the requestor is free to publish the council response in the public domain.
Delboys wife - I'm not sure what you are meaning by " broadcasting it widely "  I simply want to see what has been written on my behalf  that is so sensitive that it cannot be shared with the council.
0 votes
This is a very complicated subject

Firstly there is no such thing as a formal or informal request as all requests for information should be treated as a request under the FOI

I’m aware that at some PC’s Clerks make arbitrary decisions without Councillors ever being made aware of what’s happening
I know a Council which rules clearly show that  the Ward Councillor should be made aware of any issues raised by residents but this never happens

It seems to be the case that Councillors are becoming increasingly marginalised

I can’t see any reason why any Councillor can’t see any correspondence subject to GDPR
by (7.3k points)
You are right Jules.The council is not just the clerk.  It as an entity which includes councillors too.    Many people have their own flawed views about what GDPR is about. Essentially it sets out how organisations must control how they manage personal data, process it and share it. If a councillor simply  sees a persons name and address and does not store or share it, they have not breached any of the principles of GDPR. If they make their own copy of it or share it with some other organisation or person, they have breached GDPR unless they gained consent, or implied consent via accepting the terms of a privacy notice.
As someone who has been on the wrong end of a GDPR complaint, I'd suggest speaking to the ICO about this.  They're very helpful generally.
With regard to the Clerk writing or responding without seeking council's specific authority, I'd also suggest in the real world Clerk's are often asked questions by members of the public.  In the interests of responding in a timely manner, a good clerk will respond and report this to council.  Personally I don't want the agenda cluttered up with requests for permission to respond to "what day are the bins emptied" type queries!  If it needs a decision by council, then it should go on the agenda.
Jules - When I say informal request  i refer to  a polite written request in a conversational style  to the clerk for sight of an email  that was said by the clerk to have been sent to a local council department following a discussion with a fellow councillor. My request was denied , so I followed up with a demand to see the " correspondence "  written in an authoritative & factual  tone. The Clerks reply this time was that my request wasn't understood.  I have  no intention of allowing myself to treated in this manner again ,therefore  I'm looking for precise wording so my style of writing or choice of words cannot be used as an excuse again.
Elizabeth, I'm a Councillor and I'm ahead of you as two years ago I started with an informal request to the chair to visit the office to see documents some of which were supporting documents for an item discussed at an open public meeting.

This was refused even though the Council rules supported my request and some of the information should have been publicly available under the Councils ( and the ICO's ) publication scheme.

I then made a formal request using " whatdotheyknow" which I strongly suggest you use and the ICO have messed me around for two years so next stop is my MP

The Parish Council claim all but one document regarding a five figure contract which was not tendered for have been lost and the ICO seem to have rolled over and accepted this.

They tried the same I don't understand routine with me and at one time the ICO wanted me to describe exactly what I wanted to see as they couldn't understand the expression " audit trail " but I pointed out if I knew exactly what I wanted to see it would mean I'd already seen it, talk about Catch 22 !
If you want a hand wording it send me a PM with your email address

Welcome to Town & Parish Councillor Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers from other members of the community. All genuine questions and answers are welcome. Follow us on Twitter to see the latest questions as they are asked - click on the image button above or follow @TownCouncilQA. Posts from new members may be delayed as we are unfortunately obliged to check each one for spam. Spammers will be blacklisted.

You may find the following links useful:

We have a privacy policy and a cookie policy.

Google Analytics Alternative