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East Renfrewshire Council - Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018
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TOPIC: East Renfrewshire Council - Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018

East Renfrewshire Council - Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018 2 months, 3 weeks ago #1

  • RM64
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------ Original Message ------
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Sent: Saturday, 27 Apr, 2019 At 12:55
Subject: RE: RE: Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018.

Hi Craig

I write in regard to my request of 17/2/2019 and again wish to raise my concerns and to make my requests.

I would request that to be more balanced and fair the report includes more on the problems/views etc from those East Renfrewshire Council Tax payers who make FOI requests and are users of the system(and pay for the system).

You should actively seek these views as they are relevant to the Report.

I would also request that my email of 25/04/2018 to the Cabinet is included in the 2018 report as fallout from the 2017 report and is indeed essential to the background of the 2018 report.

The 2017 report was hijacked by the Cabinet and used in what can only be described as bordering on a ‘witch-hunt’ to attack those Residents/Council Tax Payers who make FoI requests.

East Renfrewshire Council Residents and Council Tax Payers were attacked by the Cabinet, the tone towards them was hostile and words used by Councillors against East Renfrewshire Residents such as 'weeded out' and 'grapple'

- 'that those who use FOI laws, should be “weeded out.” '

- 'it’s bad enough that we have to grapple with our local residents'

were unnecessarily inflammatory.

There was no attempt to give a balanced view on the benefits of Freedom of Information and the Democratic right to hold Councils and Administrations etc to account.

Again, I am concerned that at the Cabinet meeting of 5 April 2018 it was my understanding that the Cabinet requested the following be included in the 2018 Report -

- The Cabinet asked and wanted the Council Records Manager to provide a list of the names of East Renfrewshire Council Tax Payers who make FoI requests and make this list available to Cabinet.

- The Cabinet asked and wanted the Council Records Manager to provide details of what East Renfrewshire Council Tax Payers do with the information received as a result of their FoI request, and make this information available to Cabinet.

- The Cabinet asked and wanted the Council Records Manager to provide details of On Line WebSites to identify what East Renfrewshire Council Tax Payers do with the information received as a result of their FoI requests, and make this information available to Cabinet.

- The Cabinet asked and wanted the Council Records Manager to provide details specifically of an On Line WebSite known as East Renfrewshire Neighbourhood Watch, and make this information available to Cabinet.

I would request that details of FoI requests for reviews that were the result of ERC errors/mistakes/lack of knowledge of the FoI act be included.

There is additional costs and time associated with these reviews to those who make requests.

The report should not be giving opinions on the financial implication to the Council.

The report should not be giving opinions on the use of exemptions or fees.(If needed, under the fees section it should give the regulations of what fees can be charged and the statistical numbers of request where fees were charged).

If the report wishes to introduce these matters then to remain impartial, the report must also attempt to quantify the benefits of FoI .

Freedom of Information is now more important than ever due to -

- Council refusal to webcast Council Committee meetings

- Cabinet Committee refusing to allow audio recording of meeting.

- 3 month delay in publishing Leisure Trust Board Meeting minutes

- Threats from Council Officials to deny FOI requests.


Your help with this matter is appreciated.

Thanks


------ Original Message ------
From: "Geddes, Craig" < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Sent: Wednesday, 27 Feb, 2019 At 17:43
Subject: RE: RE: Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018.

The Chief Executive asked that, in keeping with other annual reports, the FoI annual report should run to 31st March.

I will therefore be looking at this at the beginning of May (to allow the processing of all requests received up to and including 31/3/19) and this year’s “annual” report will be cover requests received in the period 1/1/18 - 31/3/19.

No “Customer Survey” has been carried out; this is simply a statistical report so there are no plans to conduct a survey. I have nothing to add to that; nor can I comment on any comments made after I have produced the report.

Thanks for your suggestions; I will give these consideration at the time we start to bring the report together.

Craig Geddes
Council Records Manager
East Renfrewshire Council


Sent: 27 February 2019 16:59
To: Geddes, Craig < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Cc: Maxwell, Graeme < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Subject: Re: RE: Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018.

Hi Craig

'noted' seems such a nothing word.

Can you elaborate on what you mean by 'noted' . What happens next regarding my requests below?

Thanks


----Original message----
From : This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Date : 27/02/2019 - 16:28 (GMT)
Cc : This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Subject : RE: Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018.

received and noted


Craig Geddes
Council Records Manager
East Renfrewshire Council


Sent: 27 February 2019 16:25
To: Geddes, Craig; Maxwell, Graeme
Subject: Re: Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018.


Hi

With the previous problems regarding your email system and my emails, would appreciate acknowledgement/reply to confirm receipt.

Thanks


----Original message----
Date : 17/02/2019 - 12:50 (GMT)
To : This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Subject : Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018.

Hi Craig and Graeme

I write regarding Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018.

I am concerned that at the Cabinet meeting of 5 April 2018 it was my understanding that the Cabinet requested the following be included in the 2018 Report -

- The Cabinet asked and wanted the Council Records Manager to provide a list of the names of East Renfrewshire Council Tax Payers who make FoI requests and make this list available to Cabinet.

- The Cabinet asked and wanted the Council Records Manager to provide details of what East Renfrewshire Council Tax Payers do with the information received as a result of their FoI request, and make this information available to Cabinet.

- The Cabinet asked and wanted the Council Records Manager to provide details of On Line WebSites to identify what East Renfrewshire Council Tax Payers do with the information received as a result of their FoI requests, and make this information available to Cabinet.

- The Cabinet asked and wanted the Council Records Manager to provide details specifically of an On Line WebSite known as East Renfrewshire Neighbourhood Watch, and make this information available to Cabinet.

I would request that to be more balanced and fair the report includes more on the problems/views etc from those East Renfrewshire Council Tax payers who make FOI requests and are users of the system(and pay for the system).

You should actively seek these views as they are relevant to the Report.

Is a customer survey undertaken? If not, why not?

I would also request that my email below (25/04/2018) to the Cabinet is included in the 2018 report as a reference to the 2017 report and is indeed essential to the background of the 2018 report.

The 2017 report was hijacked by the Cabinet and used in what can only be described as bordering on a ‘witch-hunt’ to attack those Residents/Council Tax Payers who make FoI requests.

East Renfrewshire Council Residents and Council Tax Payers were attacked by the Cabinet, the tone towards them was hostile and words used by Councillors against East Renfrewshire Residents such as 'weeded out' and 'grapple'

- 'that those who use FOI laws, should be “weeded out.” '

- 'it’s bad enough that we have to grapple with our local residents'

were unnecessarily inflammatory.

There was no attempt to give a balanced view on the benefits of Freedom of Information and the Democratic right to hold Councils and Administrations etc to account.

I would request that details of FoI requests for reviews that were the result of ERC errors/mistakes/lack of knowledge of the FoI act be included.

There is additional costs and time associated with these reviews to those who make requests.

The Report is a statistical report.

The report should not be giving opinions on the financial implication to the Council.

The report should not be giving opinions on the use of exemptions or fees.(If needed, under the fees section it should give the regulations of what fees can be charged and the statistical numbers of request where fees were charged).

If the report wishes to introduce these matters then to remain impartial, the report must also attempt to quantify the benefits of FoI .

Freedom of Information is now more important than ever due to -

- Council refusal to webcast Council Committee meetings

- Cabinet Committee refusing to allow audio recording of meeting.

- Threats from Council Officials to deny FOI requests.

Your help with this matter is appreciated.

Thanks

----Original message----
From : This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Date : 04/05/2018 - 10:25 (BST)
Subject : RE: Cabinet Meeting - FoI attack - A Personal Opinion and View from the Public Gallery

The FoI annual report followed a similar format to that used in previous years. Beyond giving some examples of the types of requests received, with more information on any which had gone to appeal, it has not been considered necessary to give further details of individual requests or reviews.

Yours
Craig Geddes
Council Records Manager
East Renfrewshire Council


Sent: 27 April 2018 09:41
To: Mahon, Gerry; Geddes, Craig
Subject: Fwd: Cabinet Meeting - FoI attack - A Personal Opinion and View from the Public Gallery

Hi Gerry and Craig

You will be interested in below.

Would appreciate if you could say why the Annual Report did not give any details of FoI requests for reviews that were the result of ERC errors/mistakes/lack of knowledge of FoI act.

I have listed 3 examples.

I am sure there are more.

There was additional costs and time associated with these reviews due to ERC errors/mistakes/lack of knowledge of FoI act, to myself and I presume to ERC.

Thanks

----Original message----
Date : 25/04/2018 - 15:32 (GMTST)
To: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ,paul.o' This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Subject : Cabinet Meeting - FoI attack - A Personal Opinion and View from the Public Gallery

Dear East Renfrewshire Council Cabinet Member

A Personal Opinion and View from the Public Gallery

Meeting of the Cabinet held in the Council Chamber, East Renfrewshire Council(ERC)on Thursday 5 April 2018 at 10:00am.

Agenda Item No. 5 - Report by Chief Officer (Legal & Procurement) Freedom of Information Annual Report 2017.

I was present in the Public Gallery for this Item.

Make no mistake, in my opinion, this meeting was conducted by the Cabinet in a hostile and aggressive atmosphere towards ERC Residents/Council Tax Payers who make FoI requests.

In my opinion this Agenda Item was hijacked and bordered on a ‘witch-hunt’ to attack those Residents/Council Tax Payers who make FoI requests.

There was no attempt to give a balanced view on the benefits of Freedom of Information and the Democratic right to hold Councils and Administrations etc to account.

Barrhead News subsequently reported -

’An East Renfrewshire councillor has attacked the press and public over Freedom of Information requests.

He demanded that those who use FOI laws, which give everyone the right to ask for any information held by a Scottish public authority, be “weeded out.”

Councillor Lafferty also complained about residents’ use of FOIs after it was claimed the local authority spends in excess of £100,000-a-year responding to requests.

“It’s bad enough that we have to grapple with our local residents but at least they are our residents.”

Independent councillor Danny Devlin claimed that some information being used by community groups was “on the verge of cyber-bullying.”

And council leader Tony Buchanan questioned why details of FOI applicants aren’t made public.

He said: “I do have some concerns as to how some of this is used, particularly in terms of the cost to the taxpayer.

“Freedom of Information allows transparency of what we do but there seems to be no transparency on the individuals who have made the requests on several occasions.” ‘

I agree that East Renfrewshire Council Residents and Council Tax Payers were attacked, the tone of the meeting towards East Renfrewshire Council Residents and Council Tax Payers was hostile and that words such as “weeded out.” and ‘grapple’ were unnecessarily inflammatory.

The tone of the meeting and the language used against law abiding East Renfrewshire Council Residents and Council Tax Payers made me feel, as one who has made FoI requests, and sitting in the Public Gallery, intimidated and threatened.

Making a FoI request is not illegal but part of the Democratic process.

I have made several FoI requests to ERC.

I have included my name and address (and email address) on ALL my FoI requests to identify myself as an East Renfrewshire Resident/Council Tax Payer and that the request is of interest to myself and East Renfrewshire Resident/Council Tax Payers.

I did not have to provide this information.

Cllr Lafferty knows my name & address. Cabinet knows my name and address as Cllr Lafferty is a member of Cabinet.

The Council’s Records Manager knows my name & address as as I have provided them in exchanged emails regarding FoI requests.

Gerry Mahon, Chief Officer Legal and Procurement knows my name & address as as I have provided them in exchanged emails regarding FoI requests.

As my name & address are known, why would Cabinet and especially Cllr Tony Buchanan

‘And council leader Tony Buchanan questioned why details of FOI applicants aren’t made public.’

want to compile a list,

- if it is not for the purpose to name & shame those who make FoI requests.

- use this list as a ‘Blacklist’ to be used against those who make FoI requests.

I would not expect my name(and any other details) to appear on a list compiled by the Council’s Record Manager to be submitted to Cabinet for the purpose of being named and in the opinion of the Cabinet, shamed by them for making a FoI request.

My name & address is known to all the relevant ERC Officials and ERC Councillors.

They don’t need to produce a list.

If there is a problem they can contact me directly.

Again to be clear in my opinion -

The Cabinet asked and wanted the Council Records Manager to provide a list of the names of East Renfrewshire Council Tax Payers who make FoI requests and make this list available to Cabinet.

The Cabinet asked and wanted the Council Records Manager to provide details of what East Renfrewshire Council Tax Payers do with the information received as a result of their FoI request, and make this information available to Cabinet.

The Cabinet asked and wanted the Council Records Manager to provide details of On Line WebSites to identify what East Renfrewshire Council Tax Payers do with the information received as a result of their FoI requests, and make this information available to Cabinet.

The Cabinet asked and wanted the Council Records Manager to provide details specifically of an On Line WebSite known as East Renfrewshire Neighbourhood Watch, and make this information available to Cabinet.

I would ask Cabinet to confirm -

- My FoI requests have been within the FoI act legislation.

- I have done nothing illegal as regards these FoI requests and have done nothing illegal with the provided answers/replies.

- that using, in any way I see fit, the information received from an FoI request as long as it is within the law, is not illegal.

- an On Line WebSite known as East Renfrewshire Neighbourhood Watch is operating within the law.

Cllr Lafferty had the opportunity to demonstrate that this was not a ‘witch-hunt’ by raising the issues I had highlighted regarding the Annual Report. I considered my comments regarding these issues both constructive and relevant to the overall balance of the report and worthy of debate by Cabinet.

Cllr Lafferty refused to do so.

In my opinion this confirmed that this Agenda Item had nothing to do with the Annual Report but was hijacked to attack those Residents/Council Tax Payers who make FoI requests.

I have attached my request to Cabinet member Cllr Lafferty below. I do not think this was an unreasonable request -

Have read the report further.......

This is only a statistical report.

The author seems to be giving their own opinion on matters which do not concern the report -

FINANCE AND EFFICIENCY

6. The continued growth in the volume of requests is having a financial implication on the Council in terms of demands on the staffing resource. This has not been formally quantified but the impact is considered in the report

This is not relevant to this statistical report -

'It also considers the use of exemptions and fees',

If needed, under the fees section it should give the regulations of what fees can be charged and the statistical numbers of request where fees were charged.

Again this is not relevant to this statistical report -

Further guidance on the use of fees is being developed and the issue is being considered by Cabinet.

Again this is not relevant to this statistical report and anyway with the inclusion of may, casts doubt on the figures -

It is difficult to accurately quantify the financial impact of FoI but in terms of man hours, the 1296 requests received in 2017 may have cost the equivalent of approximately 4 FTE “man/years”

If the report wishes to introduce these matters then to remain impartial, the report must also attempt to quantify the benefits of FoI .

Again along with below, can you raise with the committee(and any other relevant persons) regarding the reports shortcomings.

I refer to meeting of the Cabinet to be held in the Council Chamber, East Renfrewshire Council on Thursday 5 April 2018 at 10:00am.

I refer in particular to agenda Item No. 5 - Report by Chief Officer (Legal & Procurement) Freedom of Information Annual Report 2017 and

Para 6 Fees

Further guidance on the use of fees is being developed and the issue is being considered by Cabinet.

Can you give more details on this please.

Can you give assurances that the use of fees are not to be used to deter East Renfrewshire Constituents from making FoI requests.

Can you raise the following with the committee (andany other relevant persons) regarding the reports shortcomings -

Most of the FoIs where I have had to request a review were due to ERC errors/mistakes/lack of knowledge of FoI act. These are not represented in the report.

3 recent examples of apologies from Gerry Mahon regarding FoI wrongly refused -

- 'I am however conscious that the Trust did not ask if you wished to refine your request to make it more manageable in terms of their obligation to provide reasonable advice and assistance in terms of section 15 of the Act. I would therefore apologise for this oversight and make such an offer now. Please advise if there are any specific aspects of your request which are of particular significance to you in this regard.'

- '"What confusion are you apologising for?" - I understand that the reference to confusion arose as a result of the department initially indicating to you that they held no information regarding a building conditions survey and then upon further investigation identifying and intimating that such a survey was in existence. '

- 'Having considered the terms of the Council's response I am satisfied that it does not fulfil the requirements of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 insofar as it does not provide identification of the statutory basis upon which certain information has been withheld from disclosure. This being the case, I would apologise unreservedly on behalf of the Council.'

Again the report does not emphasise that Gerry Mahon has stated FoI is normally a 2 Stage process -

'Mr Mahon, Chief Officer – Legal and Procurement, has previously clarified -

'As you will be aware the Council's response to an FOI request does not merely revolve around the initial request but also the review process. '
'It is hoped that any human error in relation to the 1st part of the process is properly remedied at the 2nd stage.' '


In my opinion the Barrhead News report reflects my opinion and view of how this Agenda Item was conducted by Cabinet.

A Council Official made a long comment at the end of the Agenda Item, but as they turned their head sideways and did not speak directly into the microphone, I did not hear what they said.

I presume their comments will be minuted.

Thanks

Re: East Renfrewshire Council - Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018 1 month, 1 week ago #2

  • RM64
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------ Original Message ------
From: "Geddes, Craig" < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Sent: Thursday, 13 Jun, 2019 At 16:30
Subject: RE: Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018.

I have drafted the report and with be making the amendments suggested by my manager next week.

It will be going to Cabinet in August and will be available to the public immediately after that.

Yours
Craig
Craig Geddes
Senior Information and Improvement Officer
East Renfrewshire Council
Council HQ
Giffnock
G46 6UG


Sent: 13 June 2019 16:25
To: Geddes, Craig
Cc: Maxwell, Graeme
Subject: RE: Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018.

Hi Craig

Again, I refer to my request below and your reply of 27 February 2019 -

'Thanks for your suggestions; I will give these consideration at the time we start to bring the report together.'

Would appreciate an update on your consideration and an update on 'bringing the report together'.

Thanks


------ Original Message ------
To: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Cc: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Sent: Wednesday, 29 May, 2019 At 10:00
Subject: RE: RE: Freedom of Information Annual Report 2018.

Hi Craig

I refer to my request below and your reply of 27 February 2019 -

'Thanks for your suggestions; I will give these consideration at the time we start to bring the report together.'

Would appreciate an update on your consideration and an update on 'bringing the report together'.

Thanks
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