Updated: 27/04/21 – @ 10:16
Make ’em laugh, Make ’em laugh. Don’t you know everyone wants to laugh? (Ha ha!).
We and our public face – who is a qualified FoI/EiR practitioner – had a good laugh when we saw the extremely poor/bad/terrible/appalling/**** (take your pick) response from Folkestone & Hythe District Council, to Cllr Lesley Whybrow (Green), Cabinet Member for the Environment & Air Quality and her Environmental Information Request, for the Ecologist’s advice, for the north bank of the Royal Military Canal, opposite Princes Parade, made on the 6th March 2021.
Cllr Lelsey Whybrow is not to know the Council’s response, was not, and is not in accordance with the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, or the Code of Practice regarding redaction.
On the 20th April 2021, Cllr Lesley Whybrow received a response, which should have been received on the 4th April 2021. The request was a full 11 days late, but hey we are in the middle of a pandemic; and the Council IS very, very, very busy.
So what was wrong with the response to the request? Who is responsible? And what can the council do about it?
The response to Cllr Lesley Whybrow’s request was in parts heavily redacted. When redaction is used on Freedom of Information requests (FOI), or Environmental Information Requests (EIR), the Council’s FoI Officer must explain to the applicant which exemptions have been applied to the redaction and why. Also they must explain where the public interest lies in providing the information or maintaining the exemption which brought about the redaction. And last but not least, there is a presumption in favour of releasing environmental information, which is explicit in EiR requests, but not FoI requests.
Redaction is the process of blanking out information on a document before it is released.
However, the council has not followed what is required. Below is a copy of the Council’s response
Nowhere in this response does it state what regs have been relied upon by the Council to withhold the redacted information.
Nowhere in this response does it state anything to do with the public interest test they must perform.
Nowhere have they shown they’ve understood the presumption in favour of releasing the requested information under the EiR Regs 2004, which does not exsit in FoI.
On the 22nd April Cllr Whybrow requested an internal review of the request.
And also on the 22nd Cllr Whybrow adds to her request on What Do They Know, the following:
As you can see even Cllr Whybrow doesn’t think Folkestone & Hythe District Council’s response fulfills the requirements as set out in Reg 14 of the Regs 2004, or the Code of Practice regarding redaction.
The response is **** for people so well paid by taxpayers money.
Now as far as we are aware, the Council has spent considerable sums of money on providing training to the Senior Information Officer who responds to FoI’s and EiR’s. They have undertaken a BCS Practitioner of Freedom of Information certificate which means they undertook 56 hours of training. Now we cannot name this person as they earn below £50,000 annually.
Then there is Alastair de Lacey who states on his Linkedin page:
” I also deal with the Information Commissioner’s Office re FOI matters and attend tribunal hearings.”
Then there is his boss – Amandeep Khroud – Assistant Director – Governance, Law and Regulatory Services at Folkestone & Hythe District Council. She like Alastair is a lawyer. Then finally, there is the Cabinet Portfolio holder, Cllr Ray Field, he who betrayed Princes Parade – who is responsible for Information technology, information access and security, RIPA.Customer service.
There are two possible solutions to this issue.
Like we said before, proactively dissemenate Environmental Information as per Reg 4, which would have saved the Cabinet Member for the Environment & Air Quality – Cllr Lesley Wybrow from needing to make the request in the first place.
Send all those mentioned – The Senior Information Officer, Alastair De Lacey, Amandeep Khroud & Cllr Ray Field on further training courses at taxpayers job to ensure they fulfil the requirements as set out in the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
We do find it highly ironic that the Cabinet Member for the Environment must send an EiR to her own council requesting the Ecologist’s advice. She of all people should have been able to see the information, or battled for the proactive dissemenation of environmental information as we suggested.