Parish Council Ignoring Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests

0 votes

Over the last few months I’ve emailed my local parish council several times (6) to get various bits of information from them. For example :-

  • Copy of the Grounds Maintenance Tender document
  • Information relating to what training the current councillors have attended since May 2015
  • Requests for all the documents that should already have been on the parish council website (most have now appeared)
  • Unpublished Notices relating to the External Audit

Some emails have been acknowledged, others just ignored. A few have been replied to saying that I would receive the requested information within the required 20 workings days. The information never appeared!

This all started in December 2017 and, to date, I have not received any of the requested information.

I’ve followed the ICO process of giving the parish council 20 working days to provide the requested information. I’ve then followed up with requests that my FOI request be reviewed through the parish council’s internal review (complaints) procedure – all of these have also been ignored. After this further 20 working day period I have then emailed the ICO a completed “Access Official Information Form” for each of the requests.

The ICO has now contacted the parish council and instructed them to respond to my requests within a further 10 working days. For my first request this period expired some time ago and I reported this to the ICO. The 10 working day period for my final 4 requests expires on Friday and I very much doubt I will receive anything. I’ll email the ICO to let them know should that be the case.

My question is “What next?”

What should / could the ICO do? Will they actually do anything? Can they somehow force the parish council into responding to my FOI requests?

asked by (890 points)

3 Answers

0 votes
Technically, if the clerk, and it is the clerk, not the council, does not respond after warnings from the ICO, they are in contempt of court. The clerk simply does not have a leg to stand on when it comes to FOI, but, as I have said several times, if these misdemeanours are not sanctioned it all turns to dust. Keep reporting the clerk to the ICO and ask your council why it continues to employ a clerk who does not obey the law.
answered by (560 points)
I will keep reporting the clerk to the ICO and, if nothing happens, I may try going through the ICO complaints procedure.

The clerk has taken a bit of a different approach to stop my legitimate requests and has made a formal harassment complaint to the police because, she says, I’ve been sending her too many emails! 54 emails in a year, which includes, email conversations with her is too many?

It did take the police 2 months before they visited me and the officer did nothing more than apologise for his visit.
Another case of a poorly trained clerk acting in desperation. Quite ridiculous. Get your own web site and write it all up there for all to see. Wordpress is free, and easy.
Thanks. I already run the website for the community group, using Wordpress, and we also have a very active Facebook group as well. We're trying to avoid clerk/parish council shaming/bashing as much as possible and trying to keep a positive spin on most things.
Sometimes, when we are downright lied to, we do react........but that's another story!
Brilliant. But what's wrong with publishing the truth, good and bad?
I think too much bad turns people off :)
0 votes
For freedom of information requests I was advised to use the web site 'What do they know.com', as it was suggested  that only one or 2 members if any knew about direct requests; https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/

I hope this helps.
answered by (220 points)
0 votes
A somewhat belated update to this.

After over a year of exchanging emails with the parish council / clerk and the ICO my Parish Council now have 3 decision notices issued against them, shocking really. They finally supplied the information I requested and/or replied to my requests correctly!!

The positive of all of this is that I was elected to my PC in May, along with some like minded other parishoners and only one of the 'old' PC remain. The first contested election in over 50 years!

Our first meeting was quite eventful as, after the chair was elected, the clerk read out a resignation statement and left.
answered by (890 points)
All change!  It sounds from your earlier posts as though the Clerk was very much a part of the problem, although the Council and Clerk must work together, particularly in times of adversity.  I hope you find a competent Clerk and can start the rebuilding process together.

I support wholeheartedly your previous comments about minimising shaming and bashing.  It's all too easy, particularly with social media.  You're now a part of the council whose reputation you could have dragged through the gutter, so you'll benefit from your measured approach last year.

The ICO has done what the ICO is there to do.  I'll never understand any council that seeks to withhold any information that they would have to divulge under an FOI request.  We're spending the ratepayers money.  They have a right to know what we're spending it on.

Enjoy the next four years!

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