Our public face curbs our Council’s right to charge for Environmental Information

On Sept 13th 2017, the Cabinet recommended that charging for Environmental Information would become mandatory. Report Number C-17-35 set out Shepway District Council’s (now Folkestone & Hythe District Council) philosophy and recommendation for charging. However, on June 3rd 2019 the Information Commissioner’s Office handed down a ruling in favour of our public face making it clear they cannot charge for Environmental Information. – The ruling can be downloaded here. – FER – 0763266

Folkestone & Hythe District Council wished to impose a charge of £375 – changed later to £325 – on our public face for requesting/accessing Environmental Information. However, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in a ruling handed down on the 3rd June said the charge was unreasonable.

In effect, the ICO’s decision sets out that it cannot be reasonable to charge for environmental information below the appropriate limit set out in the FOIA fees regulations. Although the fees regulations do not directly apply to EIR, the Commissioner’s view is that the appropriate limit (of £600 for central government and £450 for other public authorities) provides a useful starting point when considering charges under the regulations.

In a blog post accompanying the decision, Gill Bull, the ICO’s Director of Freedom of Information states that authorities should avoid routinely charging for environmental information, and is unlikely to be sympathetic when charges are made for information falling beneath the appropriate limit. She links the decision to Parliament’s declaration of a ‘climate change emergency’, pointing out that it is more important than ever for people to be able to play a full and informed part in debate about the environment. This should not be hampered by financial barriers, she argues.

This decision emphasises the important relationship between access to information and the major issues that face society. The ICO will be updating their guidance later in the year to reflect this change in approach.

Of course our council can still appeal the ICO’s decision. If they do, then to Tribunal our public face must go. It is here that you the Taxpayer will end up footing any bill for the legal counsel the Council employ to defend the indefensible.

On this positive start to the week, we and our public face ask the Shepway Green Party and especially Cllr Martin Whybrow if he really wants us and our public face to pipe down over the next four years?

The Shepwayvox Team

Dissent is NOT a Crime

About shepwayvox (863 Articles)
Our sole motive is to inform the residents of Shepway - and beyond -as to that which is done in their name. email: shepwayvox@riseup.net

5 Comments on Our public face curbs our Council’s right to charge for Environmental Information

  1. Brilliant news. Thanks to the Shepwayvox Team and your public face for your continuing efforts. Think the Greens could learn a few things if they listened to you.

  2. Fantanstic News! Well done Bryan.

  3. A Shepway Green // June 10, 2019 at 08:47 // Reply

    Hurrah! Bloody Marvellous. Perhaps they’ll reimburse those who were charged.

  4. So Cllr Martin Whybrow wants you to pipe down. Hmmm perhaps you’re stealing his thunder with this monumental decision. Congratulations.

  5. A Green Councillor // June 10, 2019 at 22:09 // Reply

    Two years of persistence Bryan and what a result. It truly is a pity you were not elected because not much would have got passed you. Tenacious is an understatement. Wish our local papers would show the same level of dogged determination to achieve a result for all who hold environmental information dear, like you clearly do. Thank you.

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