And yes, they get paid well to respond badly to information requests

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

That said, what the response shows, even though it is deficient in certain respects, as we’ve said, is that the Council did conduct themselves properly when cutting down the trees on the North Bank.

The information contained within the response clearly shows the Shepway Green Party, whose leader on the Council is Cllr Lesley Whybrow, ran a misinformation campaign regarding the North Bank of the canal in March 2021, which one could, given the evidence now available, call fake news. Fancy that!

The Shepway Vox Team

Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful

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7 Comments on And yes, they get paid well to respond badly to information requests

  1. but the question asked for correspondence from the ecologist company. the redactions look like just emails from people that aren’t the ecologist company. I don’t think there is an eir regulation for ‘this isn’t relevant to what you asked for’. maybe she should have worded the question properly, and maybe you should have picked this up yourself if you are a practitioner. this is really sloppy.

    • shepwayvox // April 26, 2021 at 12:38 // Reply

      @WB you’ve missed the point. The Council in there response had to justify why they had redacted the information in their response. Then they should have set out the public interest arguments. Plus they failed to automatically apply the presumption in favour. That’s what the act states. So nothing sloppy on our part whatsoever.

  2. @shepwayvox no i think you missed the point greatly. there wouldn’t be a public interest test or argument for not giving information that hasn’t been asked for. no eir regulations have been used, so no public interest test, arguments or presumption of favour. it’s just simply not included and you should know this. that’s what the act states.

    • shepwayvox // April 27, 2021 at 10:20 // Reply

      We have to disagree on this one, as the applicant see’s it different as is clear in her request.

      • she asked for advice FROM the ecologist specifically about the clearance of trees/vegetation on the north bank of the canal. that is very specific and is not an opinion. it is there in black and white. you’ve even screenshotted it above. you can see that every other email is redacted, so obviously is an email TO the ecologist so something she hasn’t asked for. redactions inside the ecologist emails is probably going to be information that isn’t to do with the clearance of trees/vegetation on the north bank of the canal. you’re right in that the request was clear, but unexpectedly clear from the looks of it. the response would have looked very different if she’d have asked for *all correspondence between the council and the ecologist surrounding prince’s parade*. perhaps this is what she thought she had asked for.

  3. Where is my post? I can see that other comments have been posted, which are timestamped after when I submitted mine. Are you picking and choosing what to accept or what?

    • shepwayvox // April 27, 2021 at 20:40 // Reply

      We’ve only had this comment from you according to wordpress. Resend and we’ll post it for sure.

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