Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Applying for Freedom of Information with HDC

Secrecy still abounds at HDC. Getting information out of HDC can be quite difficult. I know I do ask for some information which is difficult for HDC to publish. HDC just loves secrecy. Below are all the FOI requests I've made to HDC with dates and how long these information requests take.

FOI Request No. 1077 22nd November 2009.
This was asking for a report to Cabinet on the Outdoor Swimming Pool.
I received a reply on 23rd November 2009 saying what they would do.
My request was refused 3rd December 2009.- This took: 8 days
I appealed this decision on 7th December 2009
I received an email setting up an internal review on 9th December 2009.
Review refused appeal on 20th January 2010 - This took: 27 days

FOI Request No. 1103 19th December 2009
This was asking about South Street Toilets
I received a reply on 21st December 2009 saying what they would do.
My request was refused on 12th January 2010 - This took: 12 days
I appealed this refusal on 12th January 2010
The appeal was rejected on 15th February 2010 - This took: 24 days

FOI Request 1157 - 3rd February 2010
This was requesting Agendas, Minutes and reports for the Car Parks Working Party
Refused 26th February 2010 - This took: 17 days
Appealed 26th February 2010
Sent another e-mail asking when this appeal was to be heard on 12th March 2010
I received a reply on 26th February 2010 stating:
We will be in contact with you again by the end of March.
Appeal Refused 6th April 2011. This took: 25 days

FOI Request No: 1304 - 7th June 2010
This was about the contradictions in the amount of money claimed to be spent electing a Mayor.
Answered: 2nd July 2010 - This took: 19 days

FOI Request No: 1305 - 7th June 2010
Request for notes on Neighbourhood Forums.
I cancelled this request on 25th June 2010 as these had been published after the request had been made.

FOI Request No: 1487 - 15th October 2010
Information on Chairman's Charities costs.
Reply received 1st November 2010 - This took: 11 days

FOI Request No: 1494 - 27th October 2010
Information of closed churchyard costs
Reply received 16th November 2010 - This took: 14 days

FOI Request No: 1592 - 16th January 2011
Requesting St Neots Town Centre Initiative minutes
Reply received 3rd February 2011 - This took: 14 days

FOI Request No: 1624 - 3rd February 2011
With new information I carried on with 1077
Reply received 3rd February 2011 setting out what they would do.
Reply 3rd March 2011 with some redacted information. - This took: 20 days
Appealed 15th March 2011
Appealed to ICO over
Review decision was refusal. Informed 28th June 2011 - This took: 71 days
Appealed to ICO - awaiting outcome.

What is strange is that HDC was able after the intervention of the ICO to hold an internal review in less than 7 days!

FOI Request No: 1917 - 18th August 2011
Information on reports to cabinet about cinema site
Reply received 18th August 2011 setting out what they would do.
Refused 19th September 2011 - This took: 20 days
Appealed on 19th September 2011
Replied setting out the appeal on 20th September 2011
I should be informed of the internal appeal by 17th October 2011.

FOI Request No: 1970 - 28th September 2011
On the cost of the Co-operative Planning Appeal award of costs.
Awaiting reply.

What does the Information Commissioner have to say on time limits. The ICO says:

Q: How quickly will I receive a response?
A: You must be informed in writing whether the public authority holds the information requested and if so, have the information communicated to you, promptly, but not later than 20 working days after they receive the request.

So how has HDC done against this 20 days time limit?

Days taken - 8, 12, 17, 19, 11, 14, 14, 20, 20

Whilst they have started taking their time all requests have been initially answered not later than 20 days. Whilst this has been on the 20 day limit on a couple of times, HDC is within the rules.

What does the ICO have to say on internal review time limits? The ICO says:

In view of all the above the Commissioner considers that a reasonable time for completing an internal review is 20 working days from the date of the request for review. There may be a small number of cases which involve exceptional circumstances where it may be reasonable to take longer. In those circumstances, the public authority should, as a matter of good practice, notify the requester and explain why more time is needed.

Days taken for internal review: 27, 24, 25, 71, - none of these times are under the 20 working days limit. At no time have I received any communication to inform me there was a delay in the review. 71 days is quite remarkable. I had to go to the ICO to get HDC to get a move on because this is where HDC can stump me. Without going through the internal appeal procedure I cannot appeal to the ICO.

When HDC is dealing with me the Internal Review can take between 24 and 71 days. When the ICO gets involved it took less than 7 days. So the answer has to be get the ICO involved if HDC takes longer than 20 days on Internal Reviews.

Note: All days calculated in the above article are working days which do not include Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. The day after the request is made is counted as day 1.

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