UK Liberty

Interesting FOIA release from Rother District Council

Posted in freedom of information by ukliberty on August 26, 2008

I’ve been keeping an eye on the interactions between users of WhatDoTheyKnow and Rother District Council. It’s particularly interesting because, rather than viewing the requests dispassionately and objectively – indeed, disinterestedly – some employees seem to take them personally, or view them as a campaign of harrassment, as can be seen from the documents recently made available.

It seems to me that, in the first instance, if Rother District Council had not demanded full names and addresses, rather than treating email addresses as legitimate addresses for correspondence (as per the guidance), they would not have received as much attention as they have (as a member of the WhatDoTheyKnow team pointed out).

Nor does there seem to be any reason to seek to prevent publication on the WhatDoTheyKnow website, other than to ensure interested members of the public have to make individual requests for information they are interested in. Surely the problem here is threefold:

  1. The inconvenience to the members of the public;
  2. The inconvenience and added costs to the FOIA people at the council;
  3. The impression that there is a concerted campaign because of the number of requests of information about one or two particular things.

It seems rather counterproductive, let alone against the spirit of Freedom of Information.

Well, the Information Commissioner’s Office has sent Rother District Council some guidance (2.2 Mb PDF) and they have agreed to abide by it. So we shall see what happens.

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