Tuesday, 7 June 2011

South Ribble Borough Council refusing FOI requests via WDTK

Since the 9th May 2011 South Ribble Borough Council has been refusing FOI requests via WDTK. This is the message people have recieved in response to their FOI requests.

"Thank you for contacting South Ribble Borough Council.South Ribble Borough Council no longer accepts FOI / EIR / DP request via the [email address] / [email address] E-mail addresses.

To raise a request please visit the Freedom Of Information pages of the South Ribble Borough Council Website - www.southribble.gov.uk - where you can complete the online form or download the form and submit your request by post. Your request has not been submitted."

This is clearly just another devious ploy by a public authority to stop information about them from being publicly viewable on the What Do They Know website. They obviously have something to hide.

I urge all those who receive such a response to their FOI request to submit a complaint to the ICO without delay. Failure to provide the information requested to the address provided. 

Download the complaint form here, you can complete and submit via email.

Richard Taylor, What Do They Know has left an annotation which states

"This request has clearly been received by the council.

It is a valid FOI request and the council has a duty to deal with it. A request can be made to any member of staff at an organisation and be valid, there is no need for requestors to follow any particular procedure laid down by a public body.

The last time a public body tried this on it was the Department for Education, we wrote a blog post about that.
"

The WDTK blog post includes the following The law rejects the idea that public bodies are allowed to erect artificial barriers like this, and we have noted that a FOI request is valid regardless of which email address or member of staff within an organisation it is sent to.

UPDATE 8th June 2011: Can a local authority refuse to deal with FOI requests made through the What do they know website? Ibrahim Hasan looks at this issue and other recent developments in freedom of information.

This decision dispels any doubt about the legitimacy of making an FOI request through the WDTK website. Public authorities cannot simply refuse a request because of the means through which it is communicated. They must apply the FOI exemptions in a balanced way regardless.

Read the full story from the source Local Goverment Lawyer 

UPDATE 19th July 2011: South Ribble pays a visit. 

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