Council has cost ratepayers millions when it was not necessary

The portfolio he overseas as Cabinet Member for Transport and Digital Transformation, includes Traffic management, on and off street Parking, Information technology, Customer Services, information access and security and RIPA has cost local ratepayers hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions.

The man received a Cabinet position on the back of betraying Princes Parade, and has been rewarded with £40,164 of allowances between May 2019 and March 31 2022.

Cllr Ray Field (Ind) (pictured far left) is a man who doesn’t know much about the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

What we know is he allows his officers to squander time and resources on internal reviews for freedom of information requests. This has cost the ratepayer hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not a couple of million. Officers are doing something they don’t have to do, nor is it legally necessary. This has been the case since the Supreme Court ruled on the matter in 2015.

For the uninitiated, when one sends an FoI request to Folkestone & Hythe District Council, or any other public body, they should respond within 20 working days (there are exceptions). If you’re dissatisfied with the handling of your FOI Request, the Council state you can request an internal review – ie we’ll look at it again.  The sentence below or something close to it will form part of the Council’s response to your request:

If you have any queries in the meantime please do not hesitate to contact me. You may also request an internal review by writing to the following address:  Information.officer@folkestone-hythe.gov.uk

This is wrong. What it shows is evidence of failure by information officers to keep up to date with the legal rulings handed down by the Courts and Tribunals

The Supreme Court & the Upper Tier Tribunal (equivalent to the High Court) have stated in clear and concise lingo that the Council’s requirement to undertake an internal review is not necessary at all. It is best summarized by Montague v IC & Department for International Trade [2022] UKUT 104 (AAC) between Paragraphs [70] – [85]

P71 – The language of section 17(7)(a) of FOIA does nothing, therefore, to require an internal full merits review to be made under Part I of FOIA, even where a public authority has in place the complaints procedure contemplated by that subsection.

P74 – We therefore reject the DIT’s argument that the language of section 50(2) of FOIA requires a requestor to exhaust the public authority’s complaints procedure before applying to the Commissioner under section 50(1) of FOIA. That is simply not what section 50(2) says.

P84 – The central difficulty for the argument made relying on sections 45, 47(1)(b) and the Code is that none of them impose any requirement, either generally under FOIA or more specifically under Part I of FOIA, on the public authority to carry out an internal review of a refusal decision.

P85 – As a matter of fact, the activity of responding to the request may have included carrying out an internal review of the refusal decision. But that review action was not an activity which was required by Part I of FOIA, and it is only the latter with which the Information Commissioner is concerned under section 50(1) of FOIA.

The Supreme Court ruling we mentioned was as early as 2015. This means for the last seven years, Council information officers have been asking the public to do something which is not necessary, nor set out in the legislation. This is not legal interpretation. It is legal fact. As such, they – the officers –  have been undertaking work at a cost to the ratepayer which is not necessary for the last seven years.

Cllr Field (Ind) (pictured left) became the Cabinet Member responsible for FoI in Feb 2020, so has overseen the officers wasting public money for doing work which is not necessary, for the last three years.

Our Council is looking to save £2m in 2023/24, and a further £14m between 2024/25 and 2026/27, via its Budget Consultation.  Perhaps informing the public that no internal review is necessary will save them hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not more, as officers do not need to undertake internal reviews, as they are not legally necessary.

Will Officers and Cllr Field, who has received £40,000 plus in allowances since elected, listen to this real cost saving idea?

If they don’t, both Cllr Field and our Council, who have cost the ratepayer money, will continue to do so when its not necessary. As we said: Will they listen?

We’ll leave you to decide that.

The Shepway Vox Team

Dissent is Not a Crime

About shepwayvox (1651 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

4 Comments on Council has cost ratepayers millions when it was not necessary

  1. Is Councillor Field a Closet Tory ? … Of course he is and so is the other incompetent one Wimble .
    Both were voted in by the electorate as Independents but true to Tory form they jumped onto Monks lap and enjoyed the payments he sent their way in exchange for them sticking two fingers up at the gullible electorate and doing exactly what their puppet master wanted .
    As long as they do and vote as they are told then they will be protected but come May they will get their long awaited comeuppance

  2. As a lawyer who’s daily bread and butter is dealing with FoI, I agree that there is no necessity to do internal reviews. That ruling and all the others cited in the case have huge cost saving implications for public authorities, but means more work for the ICO.

  3. Hundreds of thousands of pounds? How many FOIs do the council have per year and how many ‘discretionary’ internal reviews? I’d be surprised if the FOIs cost tens of thousands, let alone the internal reviews.

  4. As an ex-independent Councillor for twenty years (in another area) I’m disgusted.
    I almost single handed ‘drained the swamp’ in my ward and the Borough has changed.

    The BIG problem is getting Shepway people to vote.

    I noticed that one in eight people voted for Susan Carey and she crept into Kent C C

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